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Dublin head west with furrowed brows after worst league start for six years

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Gavin: Knows Dublin have work to do

Gavin: Knows Dublin have work to do

SPORTSFILE

Gavin: Knows Dublin have work to do

After enjoying home advantage in their last three Allianz Football League games with Mayo, Dublin have to head west for Castlebar on Saturday in the most difficult circumstances for six years.

They have made the worst start to the league since 2009, picking up three points from a possible eight after losing to Cork and Kerry, beating Donegal and drawing with Tyrone.

It leaves Jim Gavin's men facing a new pressure that most of them have never previously experienced at this time of year.

They are already in the relegation zone and will drop further towards the Division 2 trap-door if they return from MacHale Park empty-handed.

Their start to the league is in marked contrast to the last five seasons, three of which yielded full points from their first four games in 2010-2011-2013. They won three of four games last year and two of four in 2012.

With two of their remaining three games away from Croke Park, the spectre of Division 2 is real. However, with four teams to qualify for the semi-finals, it's also possible for Dublin to remain on track to retain the title for a third successive year. It took nine points to qualify for the semi-finals last year but six were enough in 2013, while seven were required in 2012.

Dublin started the season as 5/4 favourites to retain the league title but have drifted out to 9/2 behind Mayo (5/2) and Cork, Kerry (3/1 each). They are 10/3 to be relegated. Dublin took a serious hammering (0-20 to 0-8) in their last clash with Mayo in Castlebar three years ago. For some strange reason, the fixtures computer gave them home advantage against Mayo in each of the last two seasons, while the 2013 league semi-final was also played in Croke Park.

Dublin won both games in 2013 but were happy to settle for a draw last year, after reeling in a six-point lead in the closing 13 minutes.

Now, they head for Castlebar to take on a Mayo team that tops the table on three wins from four games and with a real determination to cause further problems for Dublin, whose response will be carefully monitored right across the football landscape.

For while there are signs that Dublin are not attaching the same important to the league as in recent seasons, it would be a major setback if they were to be relegated or, indeed, battling for survival away to Monaghan on the final day of the Division 1 group games on April 5.

Irish Independent