‘It will feel like the world has ended as a Dublin fan if we get relegated’ – Philly McMahon on Dubs’ survival bid
So six games in and Dublin’s win over Donegal last weekend has seen them finally rise from the bottom of the table, with Monaghan’s defeat to Kildare sending the Farney men bottom, replacing the Lilywhites in the drop zone.
But despite making it two wins on the spin and getting into a position where a win, or even a draw on Sunday in Clones will see the Dubs confine Monaghan to Division Two, Kildare’s win has taken survival out of Dublin’s hands.
In fact, a bunched table means that only the top three are safe with Kildare, Donegal and All-Ireland champions Tyrone all nervously looking over their shoulders.
But for former Blues corner-back Philly McMahon, what he has seen in the last couple of games has given him encouragement for the Championship season ahead.
“There's a sense of calmness in their play now,” McMahon, who currently works as a performance coach with League of Ireland outfit Bohemians, told The Throw-in podcast in association with Allianz.
“I think over the first four games, there was a learning process, what wasn't working and what needed to be done. But then there was a bit of negative energy seeping in, in terms of the way they were playing and certain habits I was seeing that probably weren't good for the performance.
“But in the last two games, we started seeing more and more positive habits. More and more control, more momentum and dictating, and of the way the game is flowing.
“If you look at the first four games when a team got a goal, we were struggling for scores. If you look at the game against Donegal at the weekend, a good mindset in a group is when you concede a goal you can up and get the next score, you concede a point and you get the next point.
“It's how you respond for me. And they've shown in the last two games that they can respond positively.”
Regardless of that positive response, it's the response of other teams in the relegation mix that will determine Dublin’s fate.
Tyrone sit a point ahead with a tough trip to Killarney to come, albeit against a Kerry side already planning for the final. Donegal and Mayo welcome Armagh and Kildare respectively, with everyone down as far as Tyrone in 6th technically in with a shot of joining the Kingdom at Croke Park on April 3rd.
For the Dubs, it’s survival or nothing.
However, the likes of Mayo have proven in the past that relegation or a season in Division Two certainly wouldn’t preclude Dessie Farrell’s men from having a big say in the Championship.
And there is an argument that, as James Horan’s rebuild showed, it can open the door to blood new players in a less competitive environment.
But McMahon was struggling to find any positives for his former team in the prospect.
“What would be the pros and cons of it?” he added.
“The negative side is that obviously Dublin fans won't like to see a Dublin team being relegated. That’s normal for any fans but with the big base that Dublin has, the fans would be unhappy with that.
“What do you lose? The standard? Division Two has been brilliant this year and you could say Galway and Roscommon are kind of Division One teams and have been (in the past).
“But you're losing that competitiveness in the league campaign which is massive going into the Championship, so that's the big one for me.
“It's out of their hands now that they have to beat Monahan regardless, but if other results don't go their way they will be relegated.
“That won't really impact on this year. Because hopefully they'll get the performance against Monahan, roll on from the last two games, kick into Championship and go in with a different perception that someone else is at the top here.
“Tyrone are at the top because they won it last year, Mayo and Kerry are at the top because they performed so well in the league this year. And then you've got others that are kind of poaching around that. Armagh have had a good league and you could say Kildare have had a decent run in Division One as well.
“So that's what you want, you want to play Division One football ultimately. And you want to be going to win the league in Division One so you're playing football.
“That extra game or extra two games if you had a semi-final and final is key. When we were playing them we weren't out running, we were out playing matches instead.
“Those are the little things, but overall, it will feel like the world has ended as a Dublin fan if we get relegated.
“Next year, then, you'd like to think that standard wise, you'd be a bit above Division Two and that's not being disrespectful to anybody. As I said, Roscommon and Galway, I would respect that they are Division One teams. If there was a ninth or tenth spot you'd have them in and they're obviously leading Division Two now at the minute.
“I just think from the outside it'll look so bad. From the inside, it'll have to be what it'll be, you just have to deal with it, there's nothing you can do.
“If you win and you still go down you've been relegated off the first four games, not the last three.”