Down can control their own destiny

By Shaun Casey

A VICTORY over Meath in Ballycran on Saturday afternoon can secure a top three finish and a league semi-final spot for Down, but unfortunately, as the league tends to be, it’s just not as straightforward as that.

Kildare and league leaders Carlow lock horns on Friday and like Down, Kildare are pushing hard for a place in the semis. Down and Kildare are currently tied on three points each, so it could come down to score difference. Calculators at the ready.

The two teams couldn’t be separated when they clashed in round three, drawing 1-24 apiece in an entertaining game and as things currently stand in the Division 2A league table, Kildare have their noses ahead on score difference by a single point.

And it’s advantage Lilywhites as they take on a Carlow outfit who have already secured their place at the top of the table having won their previous four games and may take the chance to rest players and give squad members game time.

If that’s the case, then Kildare will likely capture their second victory of the campaign but at least that will give Down a target for their game on Saturday. They may need to score heavily to leapfrog Kildare, but they’ll know that well in advance.

That’s easier said than done however for the Mourne men as they host a Meath team that are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table and only a win will do for them if they want to survive.

They have two points to their name at the bottom of the table having defeated Kildare on the opening day, and they’re tied with Kerry, who sit just above them on the head-to-head ruling, with Down and Kildare above those two on three points.

It’s all extremely tight and while Down will be aiming for that league semi-final position, they could well end up being relegated should they come out on the wrong side of Saturday’s game and other results go against them.

For that to happen, Meath would have to see off Ronan Sheehan’s men while Kerry would have to beat Laois, which is fairly unlikely to happen, but it is still a possibility. So Down will hope to be at full throttle.

Their points tally perhaps doesn’t reflect how well they’ve played in the league campaign so far, but they’ve only lost to Carlow and Laois, who are the two teams at the top of the table and the two teams that have already qualified for the knockout stages.

A poor start saw them climb an uphill battle against Carlow last weekend, although two goals in quick succession from Daithi Sands did bring them back into contention, but Carlow had done enough to hold on by five.

Down are still minus a few key men but should have too much scoring power for Meath.

Whether that leads to a semi-final place or not remains to be seen, but it should fend off any fear of relegation.

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