Thursday 26 April 2018

GAA round-up: Four teams promoted and two relegated on busy day in the National League

Colm Cooper, Kerry. Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 6, Monaghan v Kerry. St Tiernach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Colm Cooper, Kerry. Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 6, Monaghan v Kerry. St Tiernach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrick

To paraphrase Mark Twain reports of the 'death' of Mayo football were greatly exaggerated. The five in a row Connacht champions put a halt to Roscommon's rampage through Division 1 when they fashioned their best performance of the season.

In truth there was a touch of the men and boys about this encounter as Mayo's physical strength and general know saw them dominate a game which probably should not have been played due to the state of the pitch.

Roscommon did stage a late rally hitting 1-2 in the last ten minutes to narrow the gap to three points before a late free from substitute Cillian O'Connor eased the frayed nerves of their fans in the big attendance.

Mayo still need to beat relegated Down in their final fixture at home next Sunday to secure their place in the top flight for 2017.

Roscommon, meanwhile, will probably still make the semi-finals regardless of how they fare in their last match against Dublin.

But this was a serious wake-up call for Rossies. They still have a lot of learn about life in the top flight and ironically, they were far more handicapped by the appalling underfoot conditions than Mayo.

After heavy showers in Roscommon, a pitch inspection was required to determine whether the flood prone Dr Hyde Park was playable but after speaking to the two managers, referee Maurice Deegan gave the contest the green light.

The interest in the contest was reflected in the fact that the stand was full 40 minutes before the throw-in. Once the contest began it was Mayo who totally dominated the exchanges, though there was numerous puddles on the pitch.

A measure of their early control is reflected in the fact that they led 0-3 to 0-0 after 13 minutes despite kicking six wides and Diarmuid O'Connor fluffing a goal chance.

In the very demanding conditions the physically stronger Mayo side dominated, though they had the advantage of a very strong wind. Roscommon finally opened their account with a 22nd point from Conor Devaney to reduce the deficit to three (0-4; 0-1) though by then Mayo had kicked nine wides.

Two brilliant reflex saves from Roscommon goalkeeper Geoffrey Claffey – the latter effort denied Lee Keegan a certain goal – kept the home side in the game though they trailed by four points towards the end of the first half.

But Roscommon's most productive forward Ciaran Murtagh dragged his side back into the contest with two late points – one from a free – to leave just two between the sides at the break (0-6; 0-4). But the most revealing statistic of the first half was the wides tally – ten for Mayo and none for Roscommon.

Mayo, however, made a blistering start to the second half with Alan Freeman hitting point before Evan Regan – who could have been whistled up for over carrying – scored a gem of a goal beating Claffey at his near post in the 37th minute. He landed a free moments later to extend Mayo's lead to seven points.

It looked like game over! Later Alan Freeman was black carded while Cillian O'Connor saw action for the first time since last year's All-Ireland semi-final replay.

Finally a brilliant goal from substitute Diarmuid Murtagh less than ten minutes from the end gave the home side hope and when they quickly added two points the impossible looked possible before O'Connor late free killed off the revival. But at least this belated effort means they can take something from the contest.

But the big message from the game was that even though Mayo won't be involved in the latter stages of the League they will be a force in the championship.

Mayo still need to beat relegated Down in their final fixture at home next Sunday to secure their place in the top flight for 2017 - even then they could still end up being relegated depending on how other results pan out.

It wasn't a good day either for Monaghan despite having home advantage against Kerry. The Farney County had the advantage of a strong breeze in the first half but the sides were level at half time.

However, the visitors tool control after the break and with Colm Cooper in scoring form they had established a six point advantage by the three way mark. But a controversial goal from Darren Hughes reignited Monaghan's challenge cutting the deficit to three points in the 57th minute. Kerry though killed off the game soon afterwards when David Moran converted a penalty.

The Kingdom need a draw against Cork at home next Sunday to guarantee themselves a place in the semi-finals.

But after making a promising start of the League Monaghan are now in real danger of being relegated. They have to beat Donegal in Castleblaney next weekend and hope that other results go their way.

The battle is over for Down though. They were officially relegated from Division 1 after their sixth successive loss. In a low scoring encounter in Pairc Ui Rinn there was just one point from play in the first half via Cork's Colm O'Neill which enabled the home side to lead by a point at the break (0-4; 0-3).

The Rebels improved after the break when they upped their scoring rate and secured the points to put themselves in the frame for a semi-final spot. Essentially they have to beat Kerry in Tralee and hope that other results go their way

Cavan stayed on course for promotion from Division 1. The home side led 1-9 to 0-8 – Sean Johnston hit the crucial goal - having played against the wind while Laois had Kevin Meaney black carded. The visitors improved in the third quarter but Cavan finished well to run out comfortable winner.

The other promotion candidates Galway suffered a big set-back in their campaign when they were held to a draw by Fermanagh in Tuam. Galway led 0-7 to 0-6 at the break but they could never shake off the visitors who secured a vital point in their bid to keep their place in Division 2.

Cavan need a draw at home against Galway to secure a place in the top flight along with Tyrone whereas the visitors must win next Sunday to snatch the place.

Goals early and late in the half helped Meath to a 2-4 to 1-6 lead at half time against Derry.. An early second half goal from Niall McLoughlin – their 13th of the campaign – put the home side back in control.

Indeed, outscored the visitors 1-5 to 0-3 in the third quarter but Meath fashioned a grandstand finish storming back into the contest with Andrew Tormey giving them a sensational lead but Derry grabbed an equaliser deep in injury time from a Ryan Bell free.

The result is of little use to either side as Derry cannot now win promotion while Meath are still in the frame for relegation.

Clare boosted their chances of being promotion from Division 3 with a big home win over Longford – though they face away match against already promoted Kildare next weekend.

Sligo are back in the hunt having hammered Limerick who are now relegated. Westmeath, despite having John Heslin, black carded, beat Offaly to boost their chances of staying in the Division.

Antrim secured promotion to Division 3 with a game in hand by beating Wicklow in Aughrim to record their sixth win on the spin in the competition. The only blight on the success was that they conceded their first goal in the competition.

Louth too secured promotion by beating Wexford and leap frogging over them into second place in the table.

While the Wee County face Antrim next weekend even if they lose and Wexford beat Carlow they will still be promoted as a result of having beaten the Model in today's head to head game.

Meanwhile, London picked up their first pints of the campaign when they surprised Waterford in Dungarvan. It was the exiles first win in the competition since beating Wicklow in the 2015 League last April.

Allianz FL Division 1

Mayo 1-11; Roscommon 1-7

Cork 0-12; Down 0-7

Kerry 1-17; Monaghan 1-9

*Down relegated


Allianz FL Division 2

Derry 2-12; Meath 2-12

Cavan 1-17; Laois 0-15

Galway 0-15; Fermanagh 0-15

*Tyrone promoted


Allianz FL Division 3

Westmeath 1-9 Offaly 0-9

Clare 1-20; Longford 1-9

Sligo 3-10 Limerick 1-12

*Kildare promoted, Limerick relegated


Allianz FL Division 4

London 0-13; Leitrim 0-12

Antrim 2-13; Wicklow 1-12

Louth 0-13; Wexford 0-11

*Antrim and Louth promoted

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