Crossing to safety


Kevin McStay is, it is well-known, a numbers man.

In his post-match comments on our Final Whistle pod on Saturday night he noted, with relief, the fact that his team had reached six League points. This was, he said, the target they’d set at the start of the campaign as the minimum necessary to ensure retention of our top tier status.

Kevin did, however add a rider, noting that, depending on how all of the Round 5 matches went, we might need one further point to be sure of staying up.

The manager noted in this regard that, since the most recent reorganisation of the League took effect in 2008, only one team had ever been relegated from Division One on six points. He’s correct there: that was Cork in 2016, when four counties, ourselves included, finished on six points, with the Rebels’ inferior points difference sending them down.

Hold that thought – it’s relevant to what comes later here.

The excellent GAA League Tables has a handy illustration of what’s at play for each of the teams in Division One facing into the final two rounds of this League campaign.

To see if we’re safe (spoiler alert: we almost certainly are), I’ve sought to identify the most adverse set of results from our perspective in the final two rounds in order to look at where that leaves us. As we’ll see, it would then – as was the case in 2016 – all come down to scoring difference.

It’s worth noting at this point that the scenario set out below is far from the only one that the final two rounds of games could produce. It is, though, from what I can see, the one that would leave us in greatest danger of the drop.

Right, let’s imagine some results over the final two rounds of games.

In Round 6, the worse outcomes from our point of view would be for us to lose to Derry, Galway to beat Dublin, Monaghan to beat Tyrone and Roscommon to beat Kerry. Were all those results to happen then Derry would head the table after Round 6 on ten points, followed by Galway (seven), Dublin, ourselves and Kerry on six, Roscommon on five and Monaghan and Tyrone on four, with the Farney lads holding the head-to-head advantage over the O’Neill County.

In Round 7, assuming all those unhelpful results come to pass in the previous round, the results we then don’t want to see would be Monaghan beating us, Tyrone beating Dublin, Roscommon beating Derry and Kerry beating Galway.

That would leave the final standings in Division One as follows. Derry would top the table on ten points and Kerry would have a post-Portugal Croke Park date with them in the final, as they’d finish second on eight points. Next would come Galway and Roscommon on seven, with scoring difference deciding which of them finished higher (the Rossies currently have a one-point advantage over Galway on this metric).

The last four spots would then be filled by Dublin, ourselves, Tyrone and Monaghan, all of us on six points. I’m putting them in that order as that’s how they’d land based on scoring difference as it stands now (i.e. after Round 5) but, of course, those numbers are likely to shift a bit over the final two rounds.

Notwithstanding this, were we to end up in such a four-cornered scrabble to avoid the drop, it’s clear that Dublin (currently +20) and ourselves (+10) would have a material advantage over Tyrone (-4) and Monaghan (-40).

On this basis, in fact, Monaghan already look doomed, no matter how they do over the final two rounds. Tyrone – who, under the scenario I’ve sketched out, would win one and lose one while we’d lose two – almost certainly wouldn’t be able to overhaul us on points difference either.

Which means, barring the most unlikely of circumstances, we’re already safe.

On a side note, by the way, the above scenario assumes that Roscommon win their final two games, thus hauling them clear of the precipice, while plunging Tyrone into trouble. If they lose in Round 6, however, and if Monaghan do too, then Monaghan are definitely relegated and the Rossies would only survive by beating Derry away in the final round and then only if Galway lose to both Dublin and Kerry (and the scoring difference remains in Roscommon’s favour).

You’d have to think that Monaghan and Roscommon going down is a more likely outcome than the rather fanciful alternative I’ve sketched out above. Such an outcome chimes well too with the predicted final standings from Stats and Solos – here.

So, in conclusion, we’ve almost certainly done enough already to stay up, Monaghan have equally almost certainly done enough to be demoted and Roscommon are perilously close to the trapdoor as well, with Tyrone and even Galway not completely out of the woods yet either.

35 thoughts on “Crossing to safety

  1. For those that want to see the probability numbers on our chances of relegation it looks to be only about 2% if we remain on 6 points. The overall probability is less than 1%.
    Credit to the Stats and Solos (@StatsAndSolos) Twitter account for this work.

    Our probably of reaching a league final is at around 26%, with the following tweet showing the overall probability of relegation set at less than 1%.

  2. That’s a brilliant run down on the permutations WJ. That does leave us looking safer than I thought. Fair play, that’s a fair bit of work put into that!

  3. Playing the last game sunday week mayo management will know even more about the odds of final or div 2

  4. Well done Willie Joe.
    There is not a GAA blog that comes close to the standard of this one.
    Maigheo Abu.

  5. Just a quick correction on the Rossies Willie Joe. If they lose in round 6 (and Monaghan do too) they’re not definitely down. They could win their last game, move to 5 points and beat Galway on points difference if Galway lose to Dublin and Kerry (there’s no head to head as Galway and Roscommon finished in a draw).

  6. Great lay out of permutations plus an excellent visual. Great stuff as always WJ. Biggest game next day is Tyrone v Monaghan. If Monaghan could beat their neighbours ( a tad unlikely) they would go above Tyrone on head to head. . Their last game would be at home against us, while Tyrone would be away to Dublin. Your worst case scenario could conceivably kick in then if we were to lose and Tyrone beat the Dubs, but hopefully our score difference would keep us safe should that arise. . Anyway as you said it would take an amazing set of results for us to go down .As for making the final – who knows. Can see no reason why Dublin would not want to make final as they will walk through Leinster. Derry have a very difficult opening Ulster championship game but knowing Micky he will be keen to win a league, not having won one since 2008. Kerry have two winnable games v our Connacht neighbours so they too have a good chance of making the final. They will more than likely play Cork in Munster semi on April 20, so should not suffer a hangover from reaching a league final

  7. Great bit of analysis WJ.
    Anyway, we look to be safe and we will hopefully get something from the remaining games……
    Wasn’t it a final day defeat to Monaghan that kept them in Div. 1 last year? We were in the final at that stage but if it comes to it they won’t be taking it easy in McHale Park.

  8. 15 players that id like to see fit on the field v Roscommon (championship).

    C O’Connor

  9. A great rundown on the permutations WJ, and further proof that a few of the boxes McStay wanted ticked at the start of the league campaign, have been ticked.
    The aim for the next two games are, I hope, to get minutes and form into the likes of Cillian, Conroy, Ruane, Durcan, Plunkett and McBrien. Further experience for the likes of Brickenden, Loftus, Duffy, Tuohy, McHugh and Towey. I also think it would be good if we could give runs to those who have shown promise in training but have yet to get gametime, e.g. Irwin, McDonnell and McHale.
    If we can get to New York with those targets met and McLaughlin and Diarmuid available for selection in the Bronx, then we will be in great shape to take down the Rossies in the Hyde. That game is the only one we need to truly concern ourselves with for now, because a Connaught title has to be the aim for us. Win that and our path becomes easier as we have one game less and will go straight into the group as top seed.

  10. Any chance the “mercurial”, as the football pod lads like call him, James Carr will be fit to tog for the last couple of games? Be great to see him back.

  11. He should be, Bacon Factory End. Kevin said on the Final Whistle pod that he’s been back training for the last few weeks, that he’s “moving nicely” and will be “in contention towards the end of the league.”

  12. That’s a great analysis of the permutations on the lower half of the table WJ. I had a Quick look at the possibilities at the other end of the table, particularly, for Mayo. If we win our last two matches, we will finish on 10 pts. If that happens, it as also quite possible that Derry and Dublin will also finish on 10 pts. In that scenario, as I understand it, the top two positions will be decided on score difference. At the moment, Derry and Dublin are plus 20 and we are plus 10. If we beat Derry, then the difference between ourselves and them would of course, be reduced. There are loads of other permutations, but I think, right now, Dublin and Derry would be favourites to contest the league final.

  13. @No white feather, let’s make sure that we don’t win those last two games so 🙂
    Even McStay said it in his Mayo GAATV interview to a reporter, after the reporter told him that he could still make a final. McStay said “down with that sort of talk”.

  14. Seems there’s no sanctions for playing an under strength team like we did last year against Monaghan. That resulted in them staying up. Same could happen this year if we beat Derry and they beat Tyrone. That could mean Galway or Roscommon being demoted instead of them. I know not too many here would shed tears over that but it’s still unfair. We wouldn’t be happy to be on the receiving end of that.

  15. The time to talk about League Finals is after the Derry game.

    Win that one and we can start thinking about what we want.

    That would make it two wins on the trot and we’ll have beaten the other two likely finalists. Clones starts to take on a more opportunistic colour.

    I’d like to think that when we do get our hands on Sam, we won’t want to give it back. Maybe the right call is defend our league title with the same ferocity.

  16. Any team that plays football plays or should play to win. We have lost too many matches even ones we should have won to even think of not playing to win every game and that includes the League. We are far better playing a League Final in Croke Park than having an in house game with players knocking lumps ou tof each other trying to make the team.

  17. It might be no harm to contest the league final this year seeing as we have not the same pressure as last year. The only problem is we will have to contest it strongly and may incur injuries.

  18. If we get to the league final – this is our schedule over the 6 weeks:
    Week 1 home to Derry
    Week 2 away to Monaghan
    Week 3 league final in Croke Park
    Week 4 Connaught c’ship in New York
    Week 6 away to Roscommon
    Not much time there to get in a good bout of training.
    Take out Week 3 and it looks a lot more manageable. These players have day jobs and even the travelling and overnights etc takes a certain amount out of players. They are not like professionals who can relax during the week to recover

  19. Dessie Farrell saying today, he’ll probably give some fringe players a chance for the last two games. I’d say we could see a case of the teams on 6 points taking their foot off the gas a lot, resting players.. Where the teams still fighting for survival giving it their all, could be a few surprising results in the last two games.
    No interest personally in making the league final, been there done that last year. It’s long forgotten about come June.

  20. Always play to win.
    Play returning players and new players, and if they happen to win, well, they deserve their final. This only strenghens the panel with minimal risk to likely championship players; as it stands right now.

  21. Some of the returning players are injury prone and cannot be relied on to stay fit. If they do stay fit, thats a big bonus, of course. But its not correct to judge the standard of the team by them, unfortunately. The team that played Saturday is our current standard.

  22. It’s great how Kevin McStay & Co are building depth in the squad. Besides James Carr not having appeared yet this season, does anyone know is Padraig O’Hora injured or even still in the squad? I don’t recall having heard anything about him? Also similarly for Fionn McDonagh?

  23. @MrTed injury prone or not, Durcan & McBrien are 2 of our best players. They are serious players. Diarmuid too, though I’d love to see him in a different role

  24. @Southmayo Exile we should be able to rotate players every other weekend and still have two weeks of preparation for Roscommon. The Derry game and the final are two tough games but we can rest players for the Monaghan and New York games.

  25. There’s a hell of a difference between playing the Rossies one week after a competitive final and two weeks after we play a team potentially able to run the bench from 45 mins on. I have little doubt we’d have beaten Ros if we had another week and 2 weeks gap to the Galway game. This year all 3 teams are reliant on injuries clearing up to win Connaught. Otherwise the County with the deepest panel has the advantage. Galway have unearthed 3 left corner forwards in the last 2 leagues but there’s no half forward or midfield replacements to match lads out injured.. Conroy, Tierney, Comer and Cooke isn’t around. Add to that Kelly is more there for experience and leadership than dynamism at the minute as he has the look of carrying over last years injury. As for Ros, Ben O Carroll will strengthen their forward threat when he returns. A few others will too but it’s a big “if”. We may lose Paddy, Diarmaid and Eoghan for the early championship if we were very unlucky but at least others put up their hands vs Ros in their absence. Loftus deserves proper game time the next day, possibly at 11 where Boland has excelled. Cillian and Carr could do with starts too. ROD doesn’t have to play if Cillian does, frees covered. McHugh deserves a start after the last day, possibly made easier by the absence of Eoghan Mac.

  26. Culmore Think you may have said something similar las year before the league Final. It is not just playing the game, it is how completely and utterly it alters your preparation for a championship game. Last year while we were pushing hard to beat Galway, Roscommon were having a proper get together a week before their championship match. They were able to tailor precisely what they needed to do in the two weeks before their big game while we had more than one eye on Galway. As it was a league final, it deserved our respect and we did not want to suffer the same sort of humiliation as we had to kerry in a previous final. So we had to get up for the game and then get down afterwards while Roscommon could get their preparations spot on. We saw what playing big championship games in consecutive Sundays did to us in the championship last year. Losing to Cork meant we had to play Galway and then a week later play the dubs in quarter final and we totally ran out of steam. While I agree that playing New York in the first round of Connacht is not as difficult a challenge as last year, there are a lot of logistics and travelling etc involved. I agree that as a county we are not burdened down with titles so we should not be turning up our noses at the prospects of winning another cup. But while it was lovely to beat Galway in the final last year, it was soon forgotten a week later when we crashed out of Connacht.

  27. To win just once – you are correct. Reality is playing in a league final means there is a good weeks training lost at a critical time of the year. Even if you play a lot of squad players – you cannot have a hard training session the few days before or after a big game – or lads are going to be picking up muscle injuries.

  28. New pod up on Patreon – Rob with Billy Joe and Colm Keys chatting about where we stand in this year’s League and other issues.

  29. I think you are likely to be right Brian. The Rossies and Galway will be making that very bet and their approach to survival will be ferocious over the next two weeks. They could both be possibly on seven points and we could end up on six. I think McStay is aware of this and feels that six points isn’t sufficient.

  30. Statistically, there is only a 2% chance of Mayo getting relegated on 6 points.

  31. Monaghan play Tyrone on Saturday and Roscommon are playing Kerry earlier in the afternoon on Sunday. If both of them fail to win we’re safe and if this happens we’ll know it before our match throws in. Could be a few late changes to the named team if so …

  32. What were the stats on El Fabiolo coming a cropper at the early fence in the Champion Chase earlier on?

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