Nobody really believes the round-robin draw changes provincial finals, do they?

We get the theory behind it, of course. There’s no denying that the round robin path laid out for the beaten Connacht finalists is easier than the path the winners of Sunday’s Galway-Mayo clash will have to chart. But that’s an aftermath consideration.

Mayo and Galway both paid the price for losing their way in last year's round robin series. But despite the losers from next weekend's Connacht final between the two getting a seemingly easier draw in this year's group stage, nothing about their want to win that game will change. (Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE)

NOBODY seriously believes that Padraic Joyce or Kevin McStay watched this afternoon’s draw and are off to training tonight to tell their players that it’s best now to lay down their guns before a Connacht final, do they?

We get the theory behind it, of course.

There’s no denying that the round robin path laid out for the beaten Connacht finalists is easier than the path the winners of Sunday’s Galway-Mayo clash will have to chart.

The management teams will be aware of it, they’ll know the ramifications of it.

But in terms of what they will talk about to their players, it’s all an aftermath consideration.

Galway and Mayo are serious teams with serious ambitions. What would it be saying to those players to tell them you don’t really fancy a group with Derry and the beaten Ulster finalists in it.

You hear it, sure, but it’s not really a thing.

Much like Derry’s own defeat by Donegal.

In the street and the shops on the Sunday and Monday and Tuesday afterwards, supporters wondered aloud if they’d taken it handy. No odds about Ulster, and the few weeks off will do them the power of good.

And in hindsight, it might well. Maybe a break is exactly what they needed. But there’s absolutely no way they gave that a single second’s thought before the Donegal defeat.

It’s just not a thing. It doesn’t happen.

But what teams will have learned from last year is that while there’s some lack of jeopardy in terms of actually getting yourself knocked out in the group stage, there can be very real consequences from your finishing position.

It was the big two from Connacht who felt it last year.

Galway were the previous year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists. They’d won Connacht, beaten Tyrone and Westmeath and were being talked for another assault on Sam Maguire.

Then they lost by a point to Armagh, dropped to second in the group and were drawn to face Mayo, whose collapse the same afternoon against Cork completely undermined a thumping opening day win in Killarney.

They dropped from first to third in an instant.

Even though they got home advantage, Galway were gone after the Salthill meeting.

A week later, Mayo were gone too, the diesel running out on them after a promising first half against a Dublin team who took that second half and rumbled all the way to Sam Maguire off the back of it.

Not that Armagh made any use out of gazumping Galway for top spot.

The group stages are more instructive than definitive.

Dublin will beat Roscommon and Cavan, and then it comes down to a neutral venue tie with the losers of this weekend’s Galway-Mayo tie.

That game isn’t until June 15/16, so they can keep on tapering their training and winding up towards that day before kicking for home.

Kerry are the same. Home to Monaghan first, away to Meath, and then probably Louth in their final game, it’s very difficult to see anything other than Jack O’Connor’s side finishing top of that group.

The other three will be delighted to be in it. Any one of them could finish second and any one of them could finish fourth. There’s jeopardy wrapped up in the layers of it, for sure.

The teams that probably won’t be delighted are the Ulster contingent.

Derry couldn’t have asked for worse. Or maybe better, depending on your perspective.

They’ve had a funny month. Beating Dublin in a classic to move into position at the head of the pack, only for their tail to be clipped by the speeding Donegal runners.

To have to go away to the Connacht champions, to Salthill or Castlebar, in their first outing just shy of three weeks from now pits them instantly into an arm-wrestle that they will feel they have to win.

If you held them over a bridge right now, they’d tell you they’d rather it be Castlebar, because Derry’s record in big games against Galway makes it that they do not want to be starting out down there.

One of the great elements of the round-robin series is the home-and-away fixtures.

Cavan fans won’t come out to Breffni in any great expectation that they’ll beat Dublin when they host them there on the first weekend of June, but they’ll come out because the sense of occasion will be superb.

Monaghan supporters get a trip to Killarney, while Cork will fancy giving whoever wins Ulster a good rattle through the Páirc.

With the teams finishing top going into an All-Ireland quarter-final where they can’t be drawn against anyone from their group or a team they’d played in a provincial final, it does begin to narrow the focus.

But paths are still too difficult to chart properly from here. There are too many ifs and buts.

The next game is still the biggest game.

Nothing about the Connacht or Ulster finals changes because this group looks handier than that group.