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It doesn't have to be all up and Down for the Rossies

THIS usual bedrock of cynicism brings a beacon of positivity to Roscommon and Down as they limber up for Sunday's Allianz Football League Division Two final. Here goes: you might actually survive among the big fish next season …

But surely they know the inevitable destiny of all plain-sailing kingpins of the second tier is to become, 12 months later, the flotsam and jetsam of Division One?

That's what this column assumed before setting out to prove as much by irrefutable statistical evidence …

And those stats duly proved us hideously wrong.

Maybe our faulty presumption is all Westmeath's fault: twice they have bounced up from Division Two only to topple straight back down on the back of seven straight defeats … and then keep on tumbling, one year later, into Division Three.

The meandering Maroons, though, are a pretty exceptional case.

Since the current NFL format involving four distinct divisions came into being in 2008, 14 teams (excluding this year's pair) have been promoted to the top tier. How many of them were relegated, 12 months later? Just three. And two of them were Westmeath; the only other yo-yo example are Laois.

Of our upwardly mobile brigade, Cork are the most spectacular success story: the Divis ion Two winners of 2009 duly landed a hat-trick of Division One titles.

Here's a summary of how promoted teams fared the following year - 2009: Westmeath relegated (8th), Dublin 6th. 2010: Cork champions (2nd), Monaghan 6th. 2011: Down 4th, Armagh 6th. 2012: Donegal 6th, Laois relegated (8th). 2013: Tyrone finalists (2nd), Kildare semi-finalists (3rd). 2014: Derry finalists (2nd), Westmeath relegated (8th). 2015: Monaghan semi-finalists (3rd), Donegal semi-finalists (4th).

What does all of this prove? Nothing more than we should avoid glib presumptions that the Rossies and Down will be innocent lambs to the slaughter once thrown into a pen with the heavyweights from Dublin, Cork, Kerry and Mayo.

Down have gone up before (in 2010) and ended up staying for three years. Next season will be new terrain for Ros (who were lurking in Division Four as recently as 2011) but a record of four Connacht U21 titles in the last six attempts should, in theory, leave them better equipped for survival than, say, their Westmeath neighbours.

Get back to us next April and we'll know, for sure. In the meantime, Down and Ros should just savour their big day out in Croker.