Ten truisms about the Allianz Football League

The things we know will happen again this season
Ten truisms about the Allianz Football League

REIGNING CHAMPS: David Clifford of Kerry lifts the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Kerry and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

A Kerry League equals a Kerry All-Ireland 

Not that he lets on too much about it – “I’m not into piseogs at all now, I’m just happy that we are setting out our stall to be competitive in every game,” Jack O’Connor said after Kerry’s Division 1 final win last April – but those who know him well will tell you he’s superstitious. Kerry may be behind the curve as he says and travel with an experimental group to Donegal on Sunday but every one of the Sam Maguire Cups he has brought back to Kerry had Division 1 cups for company. Success does indeed breed success.

Division 2 teams don’t win All-Irelands

“Ultimately, I don't think that anybody from Division 3 or Division 4 - no disrespect to them – are going to win the All-Ireland. In fact, it is highly doubtful anyone from Division 2 is going to win it. So, the team that wins the All-Ireland generally comes from the top division.” So said Mickey Harte 12 years ago as Tyrone contemplated life in the second tier. He hasn’t been proven wrong since and it’s a record that goes back to Armagh in 2002. But if any team can break the run, it’s Dublin.

That goes for relegated Division 1 teams too

Since the league reformatted into four groups of eight in 2008, no team demoted from Division 1 has gone on to claim the Sam Maguire Cup. League position of the last 15 champions in reverse chronological order (league final win counts as 1st): 1st, joint 1st, 2nd, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 6th, 1st, 6th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 5th.

Mayo will lose at home

The new management will be hoping the similarly new sod in Castlebar will be faster and more to Mayo’s liking than the previous turf but it may take time for the group to get over the hang-ups they have at home. Playing outside the county as the pitch underwent development last spring, it’s nine years since Mayo went unbeaten at home in Division 1. The county’s indifferent form on their own patch isn’t lost on Kevin McStay, who studied the worth of home advantage closely as a pundit.

New manager bounce isn’t real 

Back-to-back promotions since he started with Louth would indicate Harte is producing a spring. Likewise, O’Connor’s third reign with Kerry last year began in impressive fashion. But none of the six teams promoted last year were managed by somebody in their first season. In the previous full league in 2020, then Wicklow boss Davy Burke was the only debuting manager to earn promotion.

What goes up, must come down 

Tyrone Davis sure knew a thing or two about the yoyo effect between Division 1 and 2. No sooner were Kildare in the top flight that they were dropped from it. It’s been that way for years now, Roscommon being the biggest example – 2023 Division 1, ‘22 Division 2, ‘21 Division 1, ‘20 Division 2, ‘19 Division 1, ‘18 Division 2, ‘17 Division 1. Little wonder they are favourites to be relegated.

Cork must fight to the end 

The more Cork ponder these last eight seasons in Division 2 and 3, the more they must curse their misfortune in 2016 when they beat Mayo by nine points and Monaghan by seven and finished on the same number of points but were relegated on score difference. Yes, they knew the rules but it was a cruel way to go and has haunted them ever since. In four of the six seasons since, they have had something to fight for on the final day. In a cutthroat Division 2, the chances are they will do so again.

Six is the magic number 

Relegation from Division 2 will all but deny a county qualification to the Sam Maguire Cup based on league rankings so what is the magic number to avoid the drop? Based on the last 10 normal years, the average survival figure, ie sixth place, is 5.4 points. In other words, six is the saviour.

Best attack and defence wins the league 

Tell us something we don’t know, right? But it’s an interesting point that for all four of their titles from 2019 on Kerry have been the highest scorers and either the meanest or joint meanest defence. That wasn’t the case in 2018 when Galway were the scroungiest at the back and champions Dublin were the top scorers but was the previous year when Dublin were best in both categories. In 2016, Kerry registered more scores but eventual winners Dublin’s rearguard was better.

A level playing field 

The superior fitness and form of some teams in the early part of last year’s Allianz League was viewed dimly in opposing camps who felt they may have been back training together earlier than the end of the training moratorium in December. Brought forward to November 24 this year, each county has had nine weeks to prepare. Those suspected ill-gotten gains shouldn’t be as pronounced this time around.

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