Wednesday 22 February 2017

League standings holds up as championship awaits first shock

Published 16/06/2015 | 02:30

While Cillian O'Connor says he would like the provincial structures to remain in place he believes there may be a better way to integrate the All-Ireland series
While Cillian O'Connor says he would like the provincial structures to remain in place he believes there may be a better way to integrate the All-Ireland series

The correlation between league and championship is quite often dismissed but a look at the results of the first 20 championship matches in 2015 prove that eague status is holding up very well.

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Of the 20 games, excluding Galway's visit to New York in early May, 15 have featured teams in opposition from different divisions of the Allianz Football League and each has gone the way of the team in the higher division.

There hasn't been what would constitute even a mild shock in any of the four provinces with the champions progressing relatively smoothly to their final, in the case of Kerry in Munster and Mayo in Connacht, and semi-finals for Dublin and Donegal.

Only Monaghan and Derry in Division 1 could claim to have been stretched significantly by teams from a lower division.

In Monaghan's case, Division 2 Cavan came from four points down to win by one in their Ulster quarter-final last month, while Down almost claimed an away win in Celtic Park last week.

Wicklow rattled a few Meath cages in Navan on Sunday, perhaps doing most to bridge a gap between a team from the basement division and one from the top two.

In the case of Kildare who were relegated to Division 3, they beat a team who will remain in Division 1, while Derry and Down are trading places with them in Division 1 next season.

But every other game between teams from different divisions have followed a predictable course, suggesting the current league status at the end of the seventh round in April is as accurate as it perhaps have ever been.

Armagh's Kieran McGeeney had earmarked the potential for mistakes from his team who had spent their spring in Division 3 beforehand and his prophetic words couldn't have been more accurate as they misplaced so many passes under no pressure against Donegal.

At this stage last year four teams from lower divisions had overturned teams above them but that included Monaghan and Donegal in Ulster who were promoted from Division 2 and had contested the 2013 Ulster final.

Meanwhile, Mayo's Cillian O'Connor says he would like the provincial structures to remain in place but sees potential for a better way to integrate the All-Ireland series.

"I do think that there should definitely be serious talk given to it," he said.

"Definitely there should be a conversation anyway. I probably wouldn't be in favour of doing away with the provincial championships.

"I'd be a big fan of the provincial championships. I love playing in the Connacht Championship, I love trying to win the Nestor Cup. But maybe there's a way we can combine the provincial championships and the All-Ireland series."

O'Connor said he had expected a physical approach from Galway after what had happened two years ago in Salthill.

"They probably would have felt we were more physical than them the last time in Pearse Stadium so they were going to be keen to front up, and they definitely did.

"They were probably a bit loose in the tackling inside their own '45 and conceded frees they wouldn't be happy with. We were expecting that treatment and capitalised on the frees and got our scores."

Irish Independent

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