Sligo and Leitrim were both relegated to Division 4 of the NFL this afternoon, while Roscommon ended their Division 2 campaign second from bottom in the table and so will be plying their trade in Division 3 next year. The price the Rossies have to pay for relegation will be playing a lower level of football next Spring but, for Leitrim and defending Connacht champions Sligo, the price is higher and more immediate. Unless they both make it to the Connacht final, they won’t get a shot at the qualifiers this year and with Leitrim due to meet the winners of the Galway/Roscommon preliminary round clash and ourselves facing Sligo (assuming they account for London), the odds against this happening are surely long.
While the Mayo/Galway rivalry has long been the pre-eminent one in the West, we haven’t had Connacht just to ourselves down the years and the Rossies, in particular, have had their days in the sun against both of us. Sligo and Leitrim have less to show in terms of silverware but they’ve always been capable of the odd shock against the so-called big guns and, once in a while, as Sligo showed last year (and Leitrim did before them back in 1994), they have had what it takes to claim a rare provincial crown now and again.
Nobody would have begrudged Sligo their overdue Connacht title win last year but, after last Summer’s heroics, few could have predicted that, a few months later, they’d be unable to hold their own in the twilight world of Division 3 of the league. Likewise, Roscommon’s failure to maintain their Division 2 status has also come as a surprise, in particular the way they were annihilated by Armagh and Dublin. And it’s no certainty that they’ll bounce back to Division 2 next year either.
Monopolies are bad; duopolies aren’t much better. Nothing good will come out of a situation where Mayo and Galway are miles ahead of all the other counties in Connacht and neither ourselves nor the Herrin Chokers will profit from having it all to ourselves either. The better the standard of football within the province and the harder it is to win the provincial title, the better chance the provincial champion has of being competitive in the All-Ireland series. With the two of us the only Connacht sides to show any kind of ability to hold our own in this year’s NFL (and in Division 1 too), competition within the province looks as weak as it’s been for a while. Today’s depressing set of results makes it a bad day for football within the province.