RORY Gallagher referred to the weekend past and this weekend coming as ‘moving day’ in the National League, similar to what they talk about in day three of the golf majors where the pack starts to take shape and all the runners and riders start to either look up or down depending on where they sit on the leader board.
Well the National League has turned out like that over last weekend and it will all become even clearer after the round four action concludes on Saturday and Sunday.
The Ulster teams are having varying degrees of success with Derry and Cavan the only two teams to have a full unblemished record of full points. These two teams look on course for promotion albeit with a few sterner tests for each to come but the league fixtures have worked out well for both in that they have had teams they expect to beat at the start, allowing them to ramp up the intensity as they move through the weeks.
The next few weeks will tell a tale for each but if they get a victory this weekend against Kildare and Offaly away respectively it would be a major surprise not to pick up any points in their last three games to make sure promotion is guaranteed.
If Cavan do get promoted it will be the eighth season in a row in which they have changed division so they have definitely given their supporters value for money in terms of a rollercoaster ride.
Division One is a complete minefield for everyone and given the fact there are four Ulster teams in that tier and things are so tight, the law of averages tells you that a couple of the Ulster teams will be – and indeed are – under pressure after three games.
With three of the four Ulster teams anchoring the bottom of the division, and with sterner tests to come for the trio, it looks ominous that one or indeed two of the Ulster teams might suffer the fate of relegation.
After a bright start, Donegal have had a tough few weeks both on and off the field. The loss of key personnel has hit them hard on the field, fielding regularly without five of their main players and nursing others back from injury. It takes time to bed all this together but time is not on their side as fixtures come thick and fast.
On the other side of the fence, we have Tyrone who on the face of it seem to have all of their players available but for some reason just are not firing the way they would like. With Kerry and Mayo both on the horizon, the chances to pick up points are getting tighter as the weeks move on so they would hope to find a level to their form pretty soon.
Division Three, similar to Division One, has four Ulster teams also but they are maybe more inclined to be fighting for spots at the top of the table.
Cavan are unbeaten at the top of the table, and the battle for spots and points between Down, Fermanagh and Antrim is really tight.
We have seen those teams all gain momentum in the last few weeks and this week’s fixture between Antrim and Fermanagh at Corrigan Park will go a long way to deciding which one of the teams is in the promotion hunt.
While on the face of it Down seem to be on an upward curve, the defeat to Fermanagh will maybe give them a bit of perspective. They have had a solid start to their new management under Conor Laverty and he will have been pleased with the fighting spirit shown to dig out the win versus Antrim and get themselves back into the game versus Fermanagh, so that alone has put them on a steady footing.
Speaking of Ulster, it would be remiss of me not to mention our newly appointed Uachtarán Tofa, Jarlath Burns. I have known Jarlath personally for 20 years now and right from the off you knew there was something that bit special about him.
That might sound cliché, but for those who know Jarlath and have spent time in his company they will realise what I am talking about.
He is probably one of the first men to take this position who has not served on county and provincial boards, taking an alternative route by serving on various GAA committees during the last 20 years but that is a measure of the man that he is held in such high esteem.
Three years is a relatively short time when looking to implement strategic change and the GAA already has their own strategic vision right up to 2026 so he will have to be bound by that also but in his own way Jarlath will be quite forthright in his own way and definitely won’t be found lacking when stepping forward to provide leadership.
It is unlikely that like the last An Uachtarán from the six counties, Peter Quinn, he will get the opportunity to present Sam Maguire to three Ulster captains so in the absence of that, I will happily accept just Conor Glass of Derry.