Wednesday 7 December 2016

Mind the gap: Dubs soar while Leinster rivals plummet

Published 10/03/2016 | 02:30

Meath manager Mick O'Dowd (SPORTSFILE)
Meath manager Mick O'Dowd (SPORTSFILE)

If Leinster chiefs were hoping for signs of a narrowing of the standards divide between Dublin and the rest of the province, they will be disappointed by results in the first four rounds of the Allianz Football League.

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Other than Dublin, Kildare is the only eastern county with a 100pc record. However, the Lilywhite surge has been in Division 3, territory not in keeping with their expectations, having dropped two tiers in successive years.

Wexford and Louth, are second and third respectively in Division 4 behind Antrim but, as with Kildare, the Leinster duo would expect to be higher up the overall rankings. Carlow and Wicklow are mid-table in Division 4 as are Longford and Offaly in Division 3.

Heroics

The biggest concerns are around Westmeath, Laois and Meath, who have won only two of 12 games between them in Divisions 3 and 2.

Westmeath's Leinster semi-final heroics against Meath last June have given way to very lean times.

In fact, they are still waiting for their next victory, having lost to Dublin, Fermanagh (2015 championship), Kildare, Sligo and Clare in this year's Division 3 campaign, while they drew with Tipperary.

They scored three goals against Meath last summer but have managed only one in their six games since then, and are in real danger of sliding from Divisions 1 to 4 in successive seasons.

Meath and Laois fill sixth and seventh places respectively in Division 2, trailing Tyrone, Galway, Cavan, Fermanagh and Derry.

The Leinster pair's only wins over opposition from other provinces came against Armagh, who are going through a turbulent period after coming up from Division 3.

Under the continued stewardship of manager Mick O'Dowd, Meath drew with Galway last Sunday after leading by nine points at one stage, having blown an eight-point lead against Cavan a week earlier.

With games against Tyrone, Derry and Laois - the latter two away - to come there's certainly nothing to suggest that Meath's 10-year exile from Division 1 will end this season.

On the contrary, the threat of relegation is now a bigger concern.

Laois narrowly escaped relegation to Division 3 last year but are back in trouble, having lost three of four games, including a 10-point hammering by Fermanagh.

Meanwhile, Dublin power on in search of a fourth successive Division 1 title, further highlighting the gap between themselves and the rest of Leinster.

Dublin will make sure of reaching the semi-final for a fourth successive year if, as expected, they beat Down in Newry on Saturday.

They have won 22, drawn three and lost six of 31 League games since Jim Gavin took over as manager at the start of the 2013 season.

It's a very impressive record but, unfortunately for Leinster, has not elicited a positive response from their provincial rivals.

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