Mayo get the job done and move on to Clare

GAA: Casey's Call

Dropping it over: Darren McHale takes aim for Mayo against Meath last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Dropping it over: Darren McHale takes aim for Mayo against Meath last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo's win over Meath was virtually a challenge game in all but name. It gave licence for both Managers to try new players, test different combinations and give others a rest with games coming thick and fast.

Meath took the team naming and actual team starting antics to new levels, making eight changes from the side named in the match day program.

Mayo were not as bad this time around, only making two changes, Jack Carney making his first start in place of Fionn McDonagh and Ryan O'Donoghue starting in place of Paul Towey.

There was very little to take from the game apart from the continued good form of Mattie Ruane in midfield and James Carr returning to his goal-scoring prowess was also a welcome boost.

Paul Towey did eventually get some competitive action coming on as a second half substitute, finishing the game with three points.

The big plus though was the return of Aidan O'Shea to some competitive action. Rumours were rife he was fit to play some part but it was still a great lift for all Mayo fans to see him coming on. He had an immediate impact too scoring almost instantly with his weaker right foot.

No league finals makes a mockery of competition

Mayo now face Clare in Ennis to see who gets promoted to division one. There will be no division two final as both Clare and Mayo are playing in the championship the weekend of June 26/27, the week after the date for the division two final was fixed for.

There will also be no division four final while the division one and three finals are in jeopardy too. If either Kerry or Donegal win their respective league semi finals, there will be no division one final, and if Offaly or Limerick win in their division one semi-finals, it will mean there will be no league final played in any division in 2021.

It makes a mockery really of the competition as a whole. Yes we wanted football back and badly - but at least plan it that fixtures and competitions can be completed.

Those who broke the rules get lucky breaks for big games

The whole debate of where all these semi-finals and relegation play-offs take place has brewed up another storm altogether. I spoke briefly to Padraic Joyce after their game against Dublin in Tuam and he was livid.

When the GAA were punishing Monaghan, Dublin, Cork and Down for their training ban breaches, not alone should have taken away home advantage for a group game where the stakes weren't so high, they should have put in a stipulation that also for the semi-final or relegation play-off they would also lose the chance to have home advantage - that would have been a real punishment for them to have to take.

Joyce has an absolute right to be livid they have to travel to Clones to play Monaghan in their relegation play-off. Galway are badly done by in all of this, because Monaghan who broke covid protocol have home advantage in such a big game.

The regulations before the league were - that if a team had two home games and the team they were playing had only got one, the team who had only one home game would get home advantage for the semi-final or relegation play-off; and if both sides had two home games, there was a coin toss for home venue, like what happened with Mayo and Clare, with the Munster men winning that toss.

In the example of Monaghan, they now have a home tie in a game that decides division one destiny between themselves and Galway. The same can be said for Cork and Down who both have home advantage in their crucial relegation matches, after also breaking the rules by training when they were not supposed to.

Season running smoothly so far

Phase one of the return of county football is complete with the semi-final and relegation pairings decided across all the divisions in the Allianz leagues.

Hearing nothing to the contrary, it seems phase one went relatively smoothly in what was a frantic and condensed few weeks that had every team playing three games in rapid succession.

Short group stage had the calculators out

Calculators were out and thinking caps were on trying to figure out scoring differences and trying to remember who had actually won head-to-head games between teams as score lines flooded in from round three games last weekend.

We also wondered what happens if three teams finish on the same points as they did in division two south. The outcomes and permutations were as confusing as they were straightforward.

Kept simple, if two teams finished on the same points, whoever won the game between those two finished above the other. If that game was a draw (as in Kerry and Dublin ), it went to scoring difference, hence the reason Kerry finished top in division one south. If three teams finished level on points as they did in division two south, it went straight to scoring difference (not head to head ) and hence the reason Kildare finished top of their group above Clare - despite Clare beating the Lillywhites in round two in Newbridge.

Division one north was a proper mind-bender altogether. All four teams had a chance to make the semi finals or face a relegation dogfight at the same time going into round three. The fact that both those games finished level last weekend between Monaghan and Tyrone and Donegal and Armagh made it an agonising ending for those four counties.

As much as teams may not be bothered about winning leagues, you don't want to find yourself in a relegation battle a week or two away from championship.

For me, the most striking talking point across all four divisions is that the current Ulster champions, Cavan and Munster champions, and Tipperary, are both in relegation play-offs in division three, meaning if they lose against Wicklow and Longford respectively, they will both be in division four in 2022. The other provincial champions Mayo and Dublin had no such problems from their respective groups.


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