Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Promotion and relegation battles far from settled

Donegal's Michael Murphy

Quite often in league competitions where the race at the top is settled sometime before the finishing post comes into view, the fascination lies not in what is happening at the top, but rather the bottom.

The National Football League takes on different forms of expression. With four teams making it to the league semi-finals of Division One, it ensures there is a level of tension until the final day, but with Kildare and Westmeath already relegated, the comings and goings of Division Two has been compelling this season.

At the top lie the two sides we might have thought would make their way to the summit. But anyone reading too much into the meeting of Donegal and Monaghan in Ballybofey would be advised to row back on any snap judgements, considering the team that Malachy O'Rourke lined out that day.

It seems like that they will both cruise through their final games and secure a league final day in Croke Park.

Michael Murphy's comments mid-week when he said: "It's going to be a huge game and they have Kieran McGeeney in the backroom set-up now and in recent weeks they have been flying", do not tally with the reality of Armagh, who have taken successive pastings from Monaghan and Galway.

Down had aspirations of only spending one season in the second tier but are discovering that it can be like quicksand.

In the first year of James McCartan's reign they were promoted to the top flight, losing the league final to Armagh. In 2011 and 2012 they made it to the league semi-finals and last year they were relegated.

Now they have stagnated, yet they could have a say in what division Armagh play in next year.

Should Laois manage to arrest a three-game losing streak and beat Down, and Armagh lose to Donegal, then Armagh and Galway will be level at second from the bottom on five points.

Last week, Galway defeated Armagh, meaning that Armagh would have to get used to life among the likes of Longford, Limerick and Sligo next season.

Undoubtedly, injuries have hurt them, depriving them of their spine. Aaron Kernan has eased himself back into the reckoning but being without Brendan Donaghy, Charlie Vernon and Ciaran McKeever for long periods has plunged them into a bad place.

Manager Paul Grimley has already sounded a despondent note, saying in recent days: "I'm not sure what way it would be viewed in relation to my position but I'm sure, and I know, that I would want to be held accountable for that. If we go down to Division Three, it will cost me my job."

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