THIS year’s National League has been full of swings and roundabouts and has been very entertaining to say the least.
We have teams who started off playing very well and are now all of a sudden struggling. On the other end of the scale, teams who we thought were on a downward curve have picked up the pace over the last few weeks, and they are now flying high.
It’s a testament to the competitive nature of this year’s competition that with two rounds left to play, everything is still up for grabs at both ends of the table.
Before I get stuck into Division One, I just want to touch on last weekend’s game between Derry and Dublin, which I thought was a really interesting contest.
Going into the game, Derry were definitely the team to beat, not alone in Division Two but perhaps in all the divisions given their form of late. On the opposite side of that, Dublin were extremely disappointing all year and a lot of question marks hung over them.
Derry showed tremendous courage and resilience to dig out a result of the end, but for me Dublin gave us a glimpse of what we may see further down the road. From where I am sitting, this is perhaps the first time that they showed us anything near to what they will do come summertime.
Both teams should still be promoted so last weekend’s game was an opportunity for both of them to flex their muscles and show us what they have and what we might expect come the championship.
It’s hard to know where to begin in Division One given the way that results have gone. Tyrone, who looked a pale shadow of the All-Ireland winners of two years ago, turned in a masterclass and looked like the Tyrone of old to hunt Kerry out of Healy Park with their tails between their legs.
Mayo continued their rise by inflicting another defeat on early pace-setters Roscommon, and at this moment in time they are really starting to look the part as they gather momentum week on week.
They really are beginning to get and they have so many different elements to the attacking play this year, as opposed to just the strong running game that they had over the last number of years.
With Aidan O’Shea playing at full-forward, this ensures that the opposition’s defence will be pinned back creating even more space for the runners. The opposition doesn’t know if Mayo are going to kick it long or if they are going to run it so that makes them a difficult opposition to play against.
Roscommon are beginning to feel the pace a little after rattling off three wins on the trot, but I suppose the pressure is off and they can now turn their heads towards championship. Perhaps their training has changed a little but they must be careful not to get caught on a downward curve and struggle to lift it in time for the summer.
Galway picked up two important points at home to fellow strugglers Monaghan and those two points might be enough to keep them up this year. Shane Walsh was introduced last weekend so things are starting to click into place for Pádraic Joyce at the moment. Keep an eye on them over the next two outings.
In the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night, I felt that Donegal were a little unlucky with some of the decisions that went against them.
I accept that they will now struggle to stay in this division but I’ve seen enough over the last number of weeks to be optimistic that we may yet have an eventful summer here in the hills so I urge the lads to keep the faith and stick at it.
With nothing decided yet at both ends of the table The next two rounds will be very interesting and much like last year the National League just seems to get better year on year with more teams going full tilt and with so much more at stake so it’s great to see.
Finally before I sign off, I have to give a big shout out to the St Patrick’s, Donagh team from Fermanagh who joined us last weekend In Gaoth Dobhair.
I shared a few pints of stout with the lads and their manager Paul Hasson. It always amazes me how similar GAA lads are no matter what part of the country we are from.
There was also another big positive for them in that yours truly never togged out against them at number 14 as I might have gone to town on their evergreen full-back Paul McManus. He told me in the bar that he had a shoulder waiting on me so maybe I’m fortunate I didn’t play!