Down's destiny in their own hands in final round of Division Three games this weekend
IN an effort to minimise potential disruption to the opening round of the Down club programme on April 5, the GAA has ruled that the final round of National Football League Division Three games will go ahead as scheduled this weekend.
That means Louth’s postponed round six clash with Westmeath (called off last Saturday) will be shelved to await the outcome of Sunday’s games.
If Down don't lose to Louth in Newry, Laois beat Carlow, and Westmeath lose to Longford then the promotion issues will be settled and the League final between Down and Laois will take place on March 30 as planned.
However, with five counties still in the promotion shake-up, there are a number of variables which could throw spanners into the works. They include a victory for Louth in Newry which would mean the Mournemen facing a nervy wait on the outcome of the Wee County’s now crucial rearranged clash with Westmeath which would be played on the weekend of March 31. In that event, the Division Three final will be pushed back until the first weekend in April.
The GAA’s Competition Control Committee met yesterday to discuss the potentially complicated conclusion to the Division Three programme and Bernard Smith, GAA fixtures and discipline administrator, explained the outcome.
“If a result is required to determine who is in the final or who is relegated then the Louth versus Westmeath game will go ahead on the weekend of March 30-31 with the final being delayed by a week,” he said.
“If it is not needed for the final, then the final will go ahead on March 30 and we will consult with Louth and Westmeath about a refixture date.”
Smith explained that playing the Louth-Westmeath game mid-week was not an option because of player availability issues and the absence of appropriate floodlighting in Louth’s grounds.
Another option was for Louth and Westmeath to catch up this weekend and move the round seven fixtures back by a week but Smith argued that doing that would inconvenience club players in some of the counties involved, including Down.
“The knock-on effect of moving all the round seven games back a week would have a serious impact on club fixtures,” he said.
“Down’s leagues start on April 5 and pushing the League final back would have a major impact on that. Offaly’s championship starts that weekend so moving the games back would have a major impact on that too. It’s not just National League games, we’re looking at the impact these games would have on the eight counties and their club fixtures.
“When you start moving games it has impact on the counties and their club fixture programmes and club players and that is a big thing.”
The bottom line for Down is that their destiny remains in their own hands and they can simplify the equation by beating Louth on Sunday.
“I never thought we would be promoted until the last game of the League,” said manager Paddy Tally.
“Our defeat at the start of the year to Laois is important because if Laois beat Carlow (and Down lose to Louth) it could go to head-to-head (both sides would finish on 10 points) and they would get in ahead of us.
“But I don’t mind that, it’s more important that our boys keep playing and that every game is important. Next Sunday is our last game of the League and we have to go and win it to make sure we’re promoted. Promotion only comes after winning the game so it’s a long way away.”
Down had needed late scores to beat Sligo and Westmeath and they required a nerveless injury-time free from Donal O’Hare to get them the two points against Carlow last Saturday.
“I’m delighted with their spirit,” said manager Tally.
“They have shown it now in a number of games that when it goes down to the wire they just don’t want to lose matches and, to me, that is so important.
“As long as you have that, you have a fighting chance any day but we have to improve on our performances too. We (the management) wouldn’t be happy and I think the players themselves wouldn’t be happy with how they played but certainly we’d be really happy with that heart and determination and togetherness.
“It has taken us so far but I know that, in order to improve, we need to improve on parts of our game.”