The Allianz Football League returns this weekend and after Round Four, we will have a clearer picture of who is facing the drop and who is looking at silverware.
In Division One, Mayo and Kerry sit proudly atop the table with 100 percent records. Kerry recorded a huge win over Dublin the weekend before last in Tralee, whilst Mayo travel to HQ on Saturday for their highly anticipated clash with the All-Ireland champions.
The second and third divisions have proved to be the big success so far given the closeness at both top and bottom. Meath sit top of Division Two, but they are just three points ahead of Cork who currently occupies the last place. Longford finished Round Three top of the third division outright, but only two points separate the top six teams.
Leitrim have proved the big success so far with three wins from three in Division Four. As expected Derry are close on their heels having also recorded three wins in a row.
We’ll get a bigger picture this weekend of who are facing the drop. Here we take a look at five counties who need two points this weekend if they are to avoid a relegation battle in their final three games.
The Rebel footballers have fallen on hard times.
So far in 2019, they’ve been defeated by Munster rivals, Clare, three times. This is by no means a slight on Colm Collins and his Banner side who have made tremendous strides over the last five years, to a point where they are now an established Division Two side.
It doesn’t hide the fact though that historically, Cork don’t lose football games to Clare, nevermind three in six weeks.
So far this campaign, they’ve lost to Kildare and drew with Fermanagh in what has been an abysmal campaign.
On Saturday evening, the welcome Meath to Leeside. The Royal County will travel south high in confidence following strong wins over Tipperary and Armagh, whilst they should have beaten Donegal. It’s top versus bottom and if Cork come out on the wrong side again, then the impossible will begin to look possible and that’s Cork footballers playing out of Division Three.
A strange season so far for Mickey Harte’s side.
Coming off the back of an All-Ireland final appearance many expected the Red Hands to push on in 2019. It looked as though things were going to plan in January after they picked up yet another Dr McKenna Cup win, defeating an impressive Armagh in the Athletic Grounds.
The nature of that game, the atmosphere and ultimately the result seemed to be the perfect warm-up test for their trip to Killarney the following week to play Kerry, however, they were swept aside by a Sean O’Shea inspired Kingdom.
They welcomed Mayo in their opening home game of the league and were taken to the cleaners by Fionn McDonagh and Ciaran Tracey in a performance that put everybody on watch.
It would be unfair to write Tyrone off completely after losing to Kerry & Mayo, given that both teams sit joint top of the division. However, their performance in Round Three against Roscommon was quite simply awful. Tyrone were not at the races and a third defeat looked nailed on until goalkeeper, Niall Morgan, pulled them out of a hole in the dying seconds to salvage a point.
Tyrone welcome Monaghan this weekend and despite their recent win over their Ulster rivals in the All-Ireland semi-final, Tyrone have an at best ‘patchy’ record over Malachy O’Rourke’s men. If they fall this weekend, the Farney County will move three points clear of them meaning it will be an uphill struggle from here on out for the 2018 All-Ireland finalists.
We thought Armagh had passed that weird and uncomfortable stage they found themselves in for a couple years were they were too good for Division Three, but not good enough for Division Two.
The truth is we have moved beyond that. Armagh have proven over the past two seasons with their Championship performances that they are a top 16 side, in fact, many would have predicted them to make a real push for promotion to Division One given their early season wins over Donegal and Monaghan.
Kieran McGeeney’s men have performed admirably so far in the opening three rounds of the league, however, they only have two points to show for it and sit in the relegation zone.
They travelled to Newbridge in week one and drew with Kildare in a game that they really should have closed out and it was a case of deja vu the following week in Newry when they let a four-point lead against Clare slip in injury time to come away with a second draw.
In Round Three, they lost to Meath after a miserable opening half that saw them fall behind by nine points. They battle back to within a point in the second period, but Meath pulled away again in the end.
Armagh are too good for Division Three. The problem is that arguably every other team in the second tier could make that claim.
Kieran McGeeney’s side welcome Tipperary to the Cathedral City this weekend knowing that they desperately need a win to ease relegation concerns. If Armagh fall to Division Three yet again, it could prove disastrous to this team who many perceive to be ‘on the up’.
The last couple of season has seen the Faithful County survive relegation by the skin of their teeth.
This year with John Maughan coming on board, there was hope of a change in fortunes for the Offaly men.
However, yet again they stare down the barrel of Division Four half-way through the league campaign. It’s a situation that could have been much different had results gone their way.
They let a nine-point lead slip against Westmeath on the opening day of the campaign and eventually fell to a one-point defeat.
Round Two saw them pick up their only point thus far when they drew with Longford, the team now sitting top of the table. They backed up that performance with a two-point defeat to Louth.
Whilst the performances have been competitive, the results have been poor and with a resurgent Carlow coming to town on Sunday looking to bounce back from defeat the last day out, another loss could spell trouble for John Maughan’s men.
OK! We know! The likelihood of Dublin dropping down a division is unthinkable. The team chasing five All-Ireland titles in a row falling into the nation’s second tier is probably not going to happen.
Look here though, as things stand, Dublin are only two points off the relegation zone. They welcome a high-flying Mayo side this weekend who will relish the opportunity of taking them on under lights in Croke Park.
They won’t get relegated, let’s just put that out there, but doesn’t the fact that it’s possible and teams are beating them add to the excitement of it all.
With Cavan, Tyrone and Roscommon in their final three games it’s hard to see anything other than maximum points for the Dubs, but if they were to lose this weekend, the buzz that will be generated around this Dublin side for a whole new reason will be a welcome change to fans.