Provincial pain mounts up for Leinster losers
Dublin leading from the front – but the rest are a long way behind
Last year's All-Ireland and Allianz League football double may have heightened expectations in Dublin that they are headed for an extended period of dominance but it certainly hasn't elicited a response from the rest of Leinster if this season's action so far is be taken as reliable evidence.
On the contrary, several Leinster counties have fared badly over the first five rounds of the league, leaving at least four highly likely to be relegated next month. Even Dublin have had, by their standards, an indifferent Division 1 campaign, losing two of their last three games.
They are joint fourth on the table with Mayo, whom they meet in Croke Park on Saturday week, with the final group game against Tyrone in Omagh eight days later.
Dublin need to win at least one of those games to stay in contention for a semi-final place. They remain favourites to retain the title but even if they don't, they will still go into the Leinster championship with no real concerns that their rivals are getting any closer.
That's the clear evidence from the league where among the worrying trends for Leinster counties are:
* Of the 40 games played by 11 counties (Kilkenny do not compete) against teams from other provinces, they have won only nine. Three have been drawn and 28 lost.
* Westmeath, Kildare (Div 1), Meath, Laois, Louth (Div 2), Wexford, Offaly (Div 3), Carlow (Div 4) are all in the bottom half of the tables, with Westmeath, Louth and Offaly in last place in their groups.
* Westmeath, Louth and Offaly are the only counties across all divisions without a league win.
* Westmeath are effectively doomed to relegation from Division 1 and will almost certainly be joined by Kildare. Between them, they have only one win from 10 games.
* Louth will most likely be relegated from Division 2, while Laois, third from bottom, could join them if they fail to pick up any points from promotion contenders Down and Monaghan in the last two games.
* Offaly will return to Division 4 after being promoted last year. They have lost all five games to date by an average of 7.5 points.
* It's unlikely that any Leinster county will be promoted from Divisions 2 or 4 (Roscommon and Cavan have already secured the promotion slots from Division 3).
The likely upshot is that Dublin will be Leinster's sole representatives in Division 1 next year, with Kildare, Westmeath, Meath and Laois (although not certain) in Division 2.
One of the more concerning aspects from a Leinster viewpoint is how poorly their counties have fared against outside opposition. Kildare's win over Mayo and Dublin's victory over Kerry (both by a point) were the only Leinster successes in 11 games against outside rivals in Division 1.
Leinster teams did poorly against outsiders elsewhere too, winning only two of 11 games in both Divisions 2 and 3 and three of four in Division 4.
While Leinster counties have been performing poorly, it's all so different for Ulster where Derry and Tyrone are in strong contention for semi-final places in Division 1.
At the very least, both are guaranteed to be in Division 1 next season when Ulster will most likely have four-way representation.
Donegal, Monaghan, Down and Armagh lead the way in Division 2 with the first three all on seven points while Paul Grimley's men are on five points. Donegal and Monaghan look best equipped to take the promotion prizes.
Cavan are already on their way to Division 2, leaving them free to further experiment against Roscommon and Limerick in the final two rounds. Fermanagh are in the race to finish third in Division 3, leaving Antrim as the big Ulster disappointments.
Relegated from Division 3 at the end of last season, they were favourites for a quick return but have won only one of five games in Division 4, while conceding an average of 2-12 per game.
Apart from Antrim, Ulster counties have done very well against outside opposition, winning 18, drawing two and losing five of 25 games.
Cork (Div 1), Tipperary, Clare (Div 4) fly the Munster flag at the business end, while Kerry have recovered from a poor start to win their last two games and could yet reach the semi-finals.
Mayo are well-poised to reach the Division 1 semi-final but elsewhere in Connacht it looks as if Roscommon will replace Galway in Division 2. Even if Galway win their last two games against Armagh and Monaghan, they will still be relying on other results going their way to avoid dropping into Division 3 for the first time since the mid-1990s.
Sligo are at risk of dropping into the Division 4 while Leitrim need to beat table-toppers Tipperary in their next game to give their promotion ambitions a real boost.
Leinster v The Rest
How Leinster counties have fared against rivals from other provinces in the first five rounds of the Allianz Football League
P W D L
Division 1 11 2 0 9
Division 2 11 2 3 6
Division 3 11 2 0 9
Division 4 7 3 0 4
Total 40 9 3 28