It might all be forgotten about in a few weeks once the Championship – with all those lopsided provincial ties to look forward to – rolls around once more, but it must be said that the National League is great fun. And this fun is set to continue this year up to the final round of regulation matches on Sunday.
Division One has been mad from start to finish this season. Aside from Kerry, who have dropped just a single point and are in the final with a match to spare, everyone has been pretty much beating everyone else, so this means it’s largely all to play for in Round 7.
This is especially so in relation to the two relegation slots. Usually by now one of these berths would have been filled but not so this year, with every county in the danger zone fighting for dear life.
Five of the eight teams in Division One – basically, everyone else bar Kerry, Armagh and ourselves – go into Round 7 with the threat of relegation hanging over them. To add to the complications, three of those in danger – Donegal, Tyrone and Kildare – still have a chance, albeit only an outside one, of making it to the final.
One of the few things already decided ahead of next Sunday is that one of Dublin or Monaghan – who meet in Round 7 – will definitely be relegated. Both of them could be, regardless of how their clash in Clones goes, but this depends on what happens in the matches involving the teams above them.
From our perspective, a place in the final is there for us if we manage to rouse ourselves from our current funk and beat Kildare the next day. Even if Armagh – also on seven points – also beat Donegal in Round 7, we have them on the ludicrously unfair head-to-head rule so, regardless of what the Orchard lads do, a win for us and we’re off to Croker to meet Kerry.
But if our destiny is in our own hands, then the same is true of the Lilywhites. Everyone’s tip – mine included – for the drop this year, Glen Ryan’s team have shown admirable battling qualities in this campaign, with landmark results to their credit – the draw against Kerry, a first win over Dublin in 22 years and then a nine-point win over Monaghan yesterday.
Kildare’s away record is, admittedly, poor and our home-from-home results this year have been a whole load better than what we’ve managed at MacHale Park in recent years. We’ll be favourites to do the business at Páirc Seán the next day but it wouldn’t be the shock of the century if the free-scoring Lilies turned us over either.
Even if they do, however, we could still make the final, providing Armagh lose as well and the points difference remains in our favour. Which it might, or might not.
The GAA League Tables account on Twitter (here) has a veritable mine of information so anyone interested in a serious way in the various permutations could do a whole load worse than checking this out as well.
The bottom line regarding Division One heading into Sunday is that everything, bar Kerry’s guaranteed place in the final, is still up for grabs. It promises to be an interesting – and, for some, a nail-biting – afternoon’s football. Even if it is only the League.