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Trends are already emerging after just two rounds of the GAA season

It is not difficult to identify the early winners and losers.

Roscommon goalkeeper Conor Carroll punches a ball away despite the challenge from Damien Comer of Galway as Conor Daly of Roscommon watches on Ray Ryan/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrickSunday World

Hard to believe this – but 28.5 percent of the round-robin games in the 2023 Allianz Football League are done and dusted.

Compared to the English Premier League the GAA’s league is a sprint.

Only nerds would give the Premier League table a second glance after two rounds. But then there are 18 more rounds to go. Not so in the GAA.

Of course, nothing is decided yet in the Allianz League. Nonetheless, trends are already emerging after just two rounds.

Normally these trends could be ignored. But the competition is now a qualifier for the All-Ireland championship so every point counts.

It is not difficult to identify the early winners and losers.

Top of the pile are Roscommon. They were the last county to appoint a new manager, but Kildare native Davy Burke has made an immediate impact.

Not even their most passionate fans expected them to be sitting on top of Division 1 any time this spring.

Promoted to the top-flight on four occasions in the last seven seasons, they have been relegated three times and only managed to avoid going straight back to Division 2 on one occasion.

Having already beaten Tyrone and Galway they are probably one win away from safety and have three home games still to come against Armagh, Mayo and Donegal.

As they did last season, Armagh have made a solid start to the campaign despite dropping a home point against Mayo. But they will be slightly concerned they have only two more home games.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce has far more worries. His charges have only picked up one point from four so far. Mayo snatched a late, late equaliser in Castlebar but the home loss against Roscommon – who also scored a late winner – was more perplexing.

The beaten All-Ireland finalists probably haven’t as much training done as most of their Division 1 rivals. But injuries to key forwards Robert Finnerty and Damien Comer and the temporary unavailability of Shane Walsh has put them under pressure.

Monaghan are pointless after two rounds and once again face a tough fight against relegation.

They probably targeted their home games against Donegal – next weekend – and against Roscommon in Round 4 – for points but if they don’t beat Donegal their situation will become very precarious.

For the other teams in the top-flight – Kerry, Tyrone, Mayo and Donegal – their season could tilt either way. But the two points Donegal secured against Kerry in Ballybofey could prove invaluable as they are likely to end up in a battle to avoid relegation.

Provincial champions Dublin and Derry, who were tipped for promotion from Division 2, are unbeaten but haven’t look particularly impressive. The Ulster champions had to rely on a late goal from Niall Toner to see off a luckless Louth last weekend.

New Meath boss Colm O’Rourke has got his players kicking the ball more frequently and so far it has worked. They scored eight goals in total in their wins over Cork and Clare. But their fate will be decided by how they fare against Derry and Dublin.

Already Limerick look destined for relegation; they are pointless and have a -21 scoring difference – though in mitigation their first two games were against Derry and Dublin.

The big surprise is that Kildare are also pointless. Relegation is unthinkable as it would mean Tailteann Cup football for them this summer unless they reach the Leinster final. Their clash against Louth - who are also pointless – is now hugely important.

Cavan, Offaly and Down are all unbeaten in Division 3, while Longford and Tipperary have yet to pick up a point.

Scoring wise, Leitrim and top marksman Keith Beirne have shot out the lights in Division 4, hitting 4-33 of which Beirne contributed 2-18.

Though they were top of the table they still have to play Laois – whose early form suggests they will be back in Division 3 next season – and Sligo who got their promotion campaign back on track with an away win over Wicklow last weekend.

The action over the last two weekends underlines why the Allianz League is by far the GAA’s best competition.

It’s such a shame that it’s a sprint. Imagine how exciting it would be if each county played each other home and away.

Even with the split season it could be achieved if the GAA had enough courage to drop the usually uncompetitive provincial championships.

We live in hope.

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