Predictable route to Dubs v Cork decider
IT has been a good season for the form book so far, certainly in Division 1 of the Allianz Football League -- either that or the prediction business is improving.
On the day the League started (February 5), The Irish Independent predicted how the eight counties would finish in Division 1 and it has turned out largely as suggested. And judging by the betting for tomorrow's crucial last series of games, it's unlikely to change very much.
We predicted a Dublin-Kerry final and while that's still a possibility, it looks more likely to be Dublin v Cork. The key game was when Cork rather luckily beat Kerry by a point on the opening day. Kerry were annoyed -- and in fairness they had a case -- with the awarding of a late free which gave Cork the opportunity to kick the winning point that is now proving so crucial.
Both Cork and Kerry are currently on eight points. Under the system which applied up to last year, Kerry would be in second place on scoring difference, but the head-to-head result now decides placings when two teams are level on points -- hence Cork currently hold second place ahead of Kerry.
It was always likely that Dublin would reach the final for the first time in 12 years. Once they safely negotiated the opening round away to Armagh, they had four of the next five games in Croke Park as part of the Spring Series, which was a big help. Besides, they badly needed to make a bold drive in the League, especially after showing a significant improvement in the latter part of last year's championship.
We tipped Mayo to finish fourth, one place ahead of Down and while it's the other way around at present, it will change if Mayo win and Down lose tomorrow. Armagh always looked likely to finish in sixth place and are still fancied to do so although a series of results (Cork beating Armagh, Mayo beating Monaghan and Galway beating Dublin) would see Galway overtake them on the head-to-head rule, if not on points or scoring difference.
However, it's still likely that Galway and Monaghan -- the two pre-league tips for relegation -- will drop to Division 2.
Pre-League prediction: Sixth
Current placing: Sixth
Bad luck: Down 0-13 Armagh 0-12
A draw would have left Armagh clear of relegation worries tomorrow, but despite a strong finish they just couldn't get the crucial late point they needed.
Good luck: Armagh 1-11 Monaghan 0-13 (Round 2)
Monaghan had enough chances to earn a draw at least.
Best performance: Armagh 2-10 Mayo
1-10 (Round 4)
It took a gritty effort to take both points away from Castlebar.
Worst performance: Galway 1-20 Armagh 0-18 (Round 5)
Armagh led by four points after seven minutes to a team that had lost all five previous games, but were outscored by
1-20 to 0-14 from there on.
Odds (Relegation): 13/8
Current placing: 2nd
Pre-League prediction: 3rd
Bad luck: None. They could have no complaints about the defeats by Dublin and Mayo.
Good luck: Cork 0-17 Kerry 1-13 (Round 1)
A point down in stoppage time, they pointed two late frees, at least one of which they were fortunate to be awarded.
Best performance: Cork 3-17 Down 0-15 (4th round)
They outscored Down by 2-7 to 0-2 in a blistering final 25 minutes.
Worst performance: Dublin 3-13 Cork
0-16 (2nd round)
All-Ireland and NFL champions don't expect to concede 3-13 at any time and certainly not in Croke Park.
Odds (Title): 1/1
Pre-League prediction: 5th
Current placing: 4th
Bad luck: Dublin 2-10 Down 0-13 (Round 5)
They looked set to draw with Dublin last Saturday, only for a defensive error deep in stoppage time to cost them a goal, the game and possibly a place in the final.
Good luck: Down 0-13 Armagh 0-12 (Round 3)
Armagh were closing in on them at the finish, but ran out of time.
Best performance: Down 1-16 Monaghan 0-11
A big score (to which all six forwards contributed) and a low concession rate made it a very satisfactory outing.
Worst performance: Cork 3-17 Down 0-15 (Round 4)
The Cork attack are good, but shouldn't have been allowed to score 3-17 by the All-Ireland runners-up.
Odds (Title): 40/1
Pre-League prediction: 1st
Current placing: 1st
Bad luck: What's that? They won all six games so far, racking up an average of 2-13 per game.
Good luck: Dublin 0-13 Monaghan 1-9 (Round 4)
If Monaghan had more conviction, they might have seen this game through to a winning conclusion after recovering from a bad start.
Best performance: Dublin 3-13 Cork 0-16 (Round 2)
Dublin needed to get the Spring Series off to a good start which they duly achieved.
Worst performance: Dublin 0-13 Monaghan 1-9
One that Dublin definitely could have lost
Odds (Title): 10/11
Pre-League prediction: Relegated
Current placing: 8th
Bad luck: That they didn't have Padraic Joyce for the first five rounds.
Good luck: Not much of it around.
Best performance: Galway 1-20 Armagh 0-18 (Round 5)
Scoring 1-20 away to Armagh was a big achievement for a team that had averaged less than 12 points per game up to then.
Worst performance: Mayo 2-14 Galway 0-12 (Round 3)
They were guilty of the worst possible crime against Galway football -- losing heart against their greatest rivals.
Odds (Relegation): 1/10
Pre-League prediction: 2nd
Current placing: 3rd
Bad luck: Losing by a point to Cork (Round 1) and Dublin (Round 3). A late controversial free won the opening day game for Cork, while even Pat Gilroy admitted Dublin were lucky to win in Croke Park. Also, Kerry are unlucky that head-to-head, rather than scoring difference, separates two teams who finish level on points.
Good luck: That Cork slipped up last Sunday, maintaining Kerry's interest in the League.
Best performance: Kerry 1-14 Monaghan 0-11
Productive against the wind; controlled against it. And all this without Colm Cooper and Tomas O Se.
Worst performance: Dublin 3-10 Kerry
1-15 (Round 3)
Kerry don't expect to concede three goals to anybody, even a Dublin team on a roll.
Odds (Title): 11/1
Pre-League prediction: 4th
Current placing: 5th
Bad luck: That they lost a game after scoring 3-13. But then they did concede 4-15 to Dublin so they could have no excuses.
Good luck: That Galway and Monaghan were struggling so badly that five points was enough to ensure survival in Division 1 ahead of the last round.
Best performance: Mayo 1-13 Cork 0-14 (Round 6)
They needed to beat Cork last Sunday to steer clear of relegation and they did it easier than the scoreline suggests.
Worst performance: Dublin 4-15 Mayo 3-13 (Round 5)
Dublin 4-4 Mayo 0-2 after 23 minutes. No further comment required.
Odds: Can't win title or be relegated.
Pre-League prediction: Relegated
Current placing: 7th
Bad luck: Armagh 1-11 Monaghan 0-13 (Round 2); Dublin 0-13 Monaghan 1-9 (Round 4).
Losing two games by a point (one to the Division's top side) is unlucky by any standards.
Good luck: It has been in short supply in the battle against relegation.
Best performance: Monaghan 0-19 Galway 0-14 (Round 1)
Started slowly, but recovered bravely and ran out easy winners.
Worst performance: Down 1-16 Monaghan 0-11 (Round 5)
Their biggest defeat in six games.
Odds (Relegation): 1/7