By Peter McNamara
Micheál Donoghue's plight
T'is a cruel world.
Were it not for John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's additional-time leveller in Pearse Stadium as Tipp forced a draw with Galway, Micheál Donoghue's men could easily have been playing Clare in the Allianz NHL Division 1 quarter-final yesterday.
Instead, the Tribesmen will compete in Division 1B in 2017 following their four-point loss to Cork in the west.
Imagine finishing four points superior in the standings to a competitor having beaten the side by six points in a regular-season encounter, then having to play the pointless team in a play-off only to score the same number of times as them on the day and yet still be relegated afterwards.
It's an incredible situation Galway have found themselves in, totally unfair actually.
Of course, nobody can point the finger of blame at Cork.
The system is laughable.
The phrases 'Only in the GAA' and 'Only in Ireland' come to mind.
Then again, we could rehash previous arguments on the structures of competitions and be wasting our time.
Yet, you have to feel for Donoghue, much less so the players themselves given how they wanted this change of managerial circumstances so much in the first instance.
Already Donoghue is on the back-foot this season.
Would a Leinster SHC success even sate the desires of his players? Or supporters for that matter?
Say Galway win the provincial title but lose another All-Ireland semi-final or final, what degree of pressure will be placed on Donoghue then?
Definitely, Galway, on the whole, can feel aggrieved at how their entire League campaign has panned out, though.
Nevertheless, what actually are Galway's expectations this year? Obviously, they'll say provincial and All-Ireland success.
However, surely it's fair to suggest Donoghue's reign cannot really be judged until next term?
Still, relegation is a major setback.
Clare and Limerick flying the Division 1B flag
Tipp's 17 wides are vital to keep in mind when assessing Clare's capacity to reach the last four of the League and the context of their triumph.
Still, winning was a habit that eluded Davy Fitzgerald's side after their 2013 All-Ireland title-winning campaign right up until the start of this term.
Therefore, their engine is ticking along really nicely at this point.
Personally, I cannot see outside of Kilkenny, Tipp or Clare winning the All-Ireland this year.
It'll be one of those three and not necessarily the most obvious of the three either.
So it was probably even more crucial for Clare to progress than Tipp as the latter have already reiterated their status as an All-Ireland front-runner via their performances in the top-tier of the League thus far.
Limerick, too, will relish a crack at Waterford and may even defeat them.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice and his management team made a number of questionable calls in the All-Ireland SFC final last September including withdrawing Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue possibly prematurely.
However, switching Paul Murphy from the half-back line to centre-forward seems to be a masterstroke.
Murphy was exceptional as Kerry toppled Cork 0-20 to 1-12 in the Allianz NFL Division 1 clash.
His excellent link play is a feature of Kerry's performances so far this year.
While Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper have correctly grabbed the headlines, Murphy's been going about his business in clinical fashion.
His input would remind you of Patrick 'Bonner' Maher's for Tipp.
Murphy was not on the scoresheet yesterday and may not be much at all in the weeks and months ahead.
Yet, his ability to develop attacks could be essential for Kerry in the All-Ireland series.
Link men are pivotal components of attacking units presently.