GAA Football

Ten points to go up, five points to avoid the drop the likely aims in NFL

Tyrone have gone backwards while Mayo have progressed since the former won last year's All-Ireland SFC Final.
Picture Seamus Loughran

PAST performance is no guarantee of future returns…. That financial adage is always worth remembering – but history can offer plenty of guidance for teams trying to beat the drop or climb higher in the Allianz Football Leagues.

Nothing is certain, nor will it be until the round seven fixtures are all completed on Sunday March 27, but the first target for any struggling side is five points.

Over the 13 seasons from 2008 to 2020 inclusive (ignoring last year's truncated regional leagues), a tally of five points (or more) means a one in four chance of staying up. Of the 78 relegations, 20 had either five (14 counties) or six points (6 teams).

Five points will only give you a slightly better than one in six shot at staying up, with on average around one county per year still going down with that tally.

Six points more than doubles the odds of survival: only six teams have been relegated with six points to their name.

It's not impossible to stay up with four points, of course - Monaghan did so in 2019 – but five is the minimum mark that counties really should be setting their sights on.

Double that, a tally of 10, should get most teams into the top two of their division, although nine is sometimes enough: indeed Kerry finished second in Division One in 2017 on eight points, as did Clare in Division Three a year earlier.

On the other hand, 10 isn't a guarantee – Monaghan were only third in the top flight with that tally in 2018, while Down didn't get promoted from Division Three the next year, despite recording five victories.

Division One

Armagh are safe, an achievement already, but they still have a final place in their sights. That will require at least one more win, but that won't be easy. First they host unbeaten leaders Kerry, then they go to Donegal.

That's a warm-up for the Ulster SFC which could have real Championship heat to it if the Tir Chonaill men lose to Dublin in Croke Park this Sunday. The Dubs will probably need to beat Donegal to keep their survival hopes alive.

Tyrone are in the most danger among the Ulster counties in the top flight, partly because they have only collected three points so far, partly because of the teams they still have to meet.

The Red Hands are up against two counties they defeated in last year's All-Ireland SFC: first they host Mayo, whom they beat in the final, then they travel to Kerry, after ousting them in the 2021 semi-finals. Adding to Tyrone's troubles, both those counties are battling for a place in the Division One Final.

Monaghan, on four points, should stay up if they can collect another win, and even one more point might do them, but they are up against two teams fighting against the drop – away to Kildare this weekend, then at home to Dublin in round seven. The Lilywhites are away to Mayo in their last outing so it could be a Newbridge win or Division Two for Glenn Ryan's men.

Division Two

Derry's meeting with Galway at Owenbeg on Sunday is obviously a huge match. An away win would secure promotion for the Tribesmen, while a home victory would take the Oak Leafers a step closer to the top flight. Galway also have to travel in round seven, to Roscommon, who are in Offaly this weekend, so the top three could still be tight together going into that finale, with Derry heading to mid-table Meath.

Down are clearly in serious bother. The Mournemen's narrow loss at home to Offaly last weekend was doubly wounding, as it means the Faithful County will have the head-to-head edge if those two counties finish level on points.

What's more, James McCartan's men must travel to take on table-proppers Cork this Sunday with the Rebels also having only accrued one point. If Down lose at Pairc Ui Chaoimh they will be demoted, given that Clare and Meath both have four points already, though Cork won’t be guaranteed safety with a win; even a draw might condemn both to the drop, depending on results elsewhere.

Down finish with a home game against Clare, while Cork will go to Offaly; that could be a crunch clash if John Maughan's men lose at home to promotion-chasing Roscommon.

Division Three

Antrim could secure promotion this weekend if they win away to second-placed Louth and both Westmeath and Limerick lose. The Munster men must travel to Laois, while Westmeath are at home to Fermanagh. Anything would leave the Saffrons having to take something from their last match, but at least it's at home, against Westmeath.

Mickey Harte's Louth finish up at home to struggling Wicklow, so will be well-placed for promotion if they can avoid defeat in Ardee first.

The Ernemen are in that middle corridor of uncertainty – looking towards the skylight of going up, fearing the trapdoor of the drop to the bottom flight. A win in Mullingar would almost certainly end those worries, although the possibility of relegation with seven points might still remain, depending on other results. Kieran Donnelly's charges go to Limerick in round seven.

Wicklow will surely have to beat both Longford (away) and Louth to have any hope of staying up. Longford are also desperate for points, and face a Leinster battle in Laois in round seven.

Division Four

Cavan's hopes of confirming promotion last weekend were ended by home defeat against Tipperary but the Breffnimen should still secure Division Three status for 2023. Mickey Graham's side travel to London, then host lowly Waterford and one win will surely be enough.

Tipperary can build on that win with a home success over Carlow, before also hosting London, although the Exiles, Leitrim, and Sligo are all still in the mix for promotion. The Connacht clash of Sligo and Leitrim in round seven could be crucial.

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