GAA is back... Round Six of the National Football League finally gets underway
What was meant to be a two-week wait, turned into a delay of seven months. But this weekend, round six of the national football league is finally down for decision.
Most everything has changed in that time. All games will behind closed doors but will either be shown on TV or available on a stream. Since a ball was last kicked competitively, some players have retired and managers have moved on. Even whole counties are out of the equation. Covid travel restrictions means that football moves on without representation from Michael Maher’s London.
The Exiles won’t complete their series of games in the league with Waterford and Carlow to receive walkovers while they also won’t play in the Connacht championship for the first time since foot and mouth forced them out of the 2001 renewal.
With no room in a tightly packed schedule for league finals, the GAA have confirmed that the team that finishes top will be considered league champions for that year.
Still the majority of counties are involved in the promotion/relegation picture which is of particular relevance to divisions two and three, given that, as things stand, it is set to impact whether they play Sam Maguire or Tailteann cup football in 2021.
Across the relevant divisions, the top two and bottom two are promoted/relegated with head to head rule applied if two teams are tied on the same points. In the eventuality that three or more teams finish level on points, then score difference will come into play. Here’s a look at how things stand in the four divisions.
Galway were the form team in the country before the break. A last gasp defeat away to Kerry the only blot on their copy book under Padraic Joyce and the revelation this week that Jim McGuinness took a training session recently will only add to the buzz around the Tribesmen.
They face Mayo this weekend in what could well be a dress rehearsal for a Connacht final this year but top of James Horan’s list will be preserving his side’s top fight status, which they have held since the 1996/97 season.
Mayo, who currently sit in seventh place, have dug themselves out of holes before but their score difference of -15 looks like it could be a problem if they are to extend their stay in division one.
Dessie Farrell’s All-Ireland champions Dublin face Meath in Parnell Park on Saturday. The Royals are already relegated, having lost all five games to date while Monaghan and Donegal are also looking over their shoulders at the trap door. Donegal’s approach against Tyrone will be interesting given the sides will meet in a fortnight’s time in the Ulster championship.
Unsurprisingly this is the most competitive divisions around. Fermanagh’s fixture away to Clare has come under the spotlight this week given the Erne men’s situation. Covid-19 has ripped through their panel and manager Ryan McMenamin reported that 17 players were unavailable to train this week. Defeat for them in Ennis would see them condemned to Division Three and Tailteann Cup football next year.
Just three points separate the other seven teams but the winner of Armagh’s clash with Roscommon this weekend will seal promotion to the top flight. Jack O’Connor’s Kildare occupy the other relegation spot as things stand and they will be without the injured Niall Kelly for the campaign. However they will be at home for their final two matches of the league. The Lilies face Mickey Graham’s Cavan who can force themselves further into the promotion picture with a win there.
Cork haven’t put a foot wrong since their surprising demotion to division three last year, winning all five of their outings to date. And as the only team with a 100 per cent record in the country, they need only a point from their final two games to make their return to division two official.
They welcome Louth to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night who have lost all five games to date and look set for a spell in the basement division.
Down and Longford are best placed to achieve promotion alongside the Rebels with Offaly and Derry in line should either side slip up in their final two games. Along with Louth, Leitrim and Tipp look in the most perilous situation. Those sides meet in the final round in what could well be a decisive fixture.
There might be no relegation here but five of the division’s eight teams still have something to play for with just two points separating Limerick in first place from Sligo in fifth.
Billy Lee’s Limerick will be looking to maintain their bright start to the year. Having won the McGrath cup back in January they now sit two points clear of the rest. They face Wexford, who are also very much in the promotion picture but are now without Paul Galvin who has stepped down. The result of Wicklow’s game with Antrim will also make the promotion picture more clear but it’s likely there’ll still be plenty to play on the final weekend. London’s enforced absence means Waterford and Carlow will sit out a weekend each.