Tuesday 25 July 2017

Laois and Meath in grim struggle to avoid drop

Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

They started the Division 2 campaign as second and third favourites to be relegated and all that has changed for Laois and Meath is that they are now first and third fancies for the drop ahead of the final series of games.

Armagh are very much in the grim zone too, replacing Fermanagh, the pre-season relegation favourites, who have climbed into fifth place.

And while Peter McGrath's squad are not guaranteed safety, they would be unlucky to get caught by the trap door. Even if they lose to Tyrone on Sunday, it would require Meath (4pts) to beat Laois (3pts) and Armagh (4pts) to beat Derry (6pts) in order to force Fermanagh (5pts) out.

Armagh, who were promoted with Fermanagh this year, need to beat Derry in the Athletic Grounds to have any chance of survival.

With Dublin seeking to become the first team since Derry in 1992 to win all their Division 1 games, Leinster rivals Meath and Laois can only look on enviously as they prepare for their relegation showdown in O'Moore Park.

One of them will definitely be ejected, with Laois in greater danger as a draw would not be enough to give them a chance of survival, whereas it might suffice for Meath.

The Royals dipped into Division 3 in 2013 and while Laois came close to being relegated from Division 2 last year, finishing sixth, they are now in a much more perilous situation.

Their only win came against Armagh in the second round, while they also picked up a point in a freakishly high-scoring clash (1-22 to 5-10) with Derry .

Defensive vulnerability has seriously undermined Laois, who have conceded an average of 2-14 per game. Even when Derry's 5-10 total is deducted, it leaves them with an average give-away of almost 1-16 per game. Laois have a scoring differential of -25 points, the second worst behind Down (-57 points) in the top divisions, whereas Meath are on -12.

They put themselves in a position to beat Cavan, Galway and Derry but took only two points, thanks to draws with the latter two.

It's all very disappointing for Laois and Meath to find themselves at the dreary end of the table in a group where, with the exception of Tyrone, there has been no consistency. Five points were enough to sustain Laois in Division 2 last year. That would again be the case if they beat Meath and Derry beat Armagh.

Irish Independent

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