Five things to watch in the GAA this weekend
In our look at all things GAA this weekend, we wonder whether Garrycastle have blown their shot at a club All-Ireland and cast our eye over the extremely complicated permutations in the National Hurling League.
Have Garrycastle blown their shot at an All-Ireland?
With less than 20 minutes to go of an enthralling All-Ireland Club Final on Paddy’s Day, Garrycastle were four points to the good and dreaming of a first national title. They subsequently learned, as many teams have done in the past, that when you get a chance against Crossmaglen, you had better bloody well take it.
In the last quarter, Cross were all over the Westmeath side like the bees that their colours represent and even though it would have been devastatingly harsh on either side to lose, they probably should have come away with more than a draw.
With Stephen Kernan back and with a winning pedigree that includes 15 county titles, nine Ulster championships and five All-Ireland club titles since 1996 (yes, 1996!) Cross will be favourites to come out on top in Breffni Park and odds of 1/4 suggest that the bookies at least see only one winner.
On the evidence of the first day, having won a Leinster title and knocked out last year’s runners-up in the semis, Garrycastle are no doubt a force to be reckoned with, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that they might have left it behind them a fortnight ago.
Make or break in Castlebar
Saturday night sees Mayo and Dublin go at it again in Castlebar after the original fixture was postponed due to fog and it really is a make or break encounter for both sides.
For the hosts, a win on home turf is nigh on essential if they are going to beat the drop. They have Kerry next and although the Kingdom are already securely nestled in the top two, traditionally they don’t go easy on vulnerable Mayo teams.
For the Dubs, their hopes of a second successive final hinge on victory in McHale Park because Cork could well be out of a sight by the time the sides face up on Easter weekend.
Last year’s league clash and the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final have demonstrated that the meetings between these sides can be very entertaining affairs and although the Dubs are 1/2 favourites, Mayo – Division One mainstays since 1998 – have a habit of pulling out results when they are least expected. With so much at stake and with the fog almost certain not to make a hames of this one, it could be a cracker.
Is there another big scalp in Cork?
Rebel fans excited at the re-appointment of JBM will have been trying their hardest not to get carried away, but it is difficult not to given their displays under the great one so far in this campaign.
A place in the league semi-finals is not yet assured (see ridiculously complicated permutations below), but it will be if they can pull off the scalp of Tipp in Thurles on Sunday, no mean achievement considering their defeat of Kilkenny earlier on in the campaign.
With the two likely to meet in the Munster semi-final in the summer, there could well be an element of shadow-boxing at Semple Stadium on Sunday, but beating the Premier so soon after Kilkenny will give Jimmy Barry’s mixture of old and new a hefty shot of confidence going forward.
The shake-up in NHL Division 1A
Confused about the possibilities and permutations arising from the last weekend of the National Hurling League? We’re here to help, but before you dig in, prepare to be saddled with an information overload.
Ready? *Deep breath* In Division 1A, the league semi-finals will be contested between the top three teams and the winner of Division 1B. The top team in Division 1A will play the winner of the 1B final and the teams placed in second and third in 1A will contest the other semi-final. In the event of a two-way tie, the head to head result is the primary factor, in the event of a three-way tie, it’s scoring difference that counts.
Still with me? Good. Here’s the breakdown for every team in Division 1A and how results will affect their progress.
Cork: Win or draw on Sunday and they’re through. Lose, and they’re likely to go through anyway because if Kilkenny beat Galway, they’ll still finish in third place. If they lose and Kilkenny lose, then it will come down to score difference between themselves, Kilkenny and Galway and if that occurs, they’re in bother because Kilkenny’s scoring difference is better and Galway’s will be if they beat the Cats.
Whether Donal Óg and his teammates will be in a league semi-final or not come Sunday afternoon is anyone's guess
Kilkenny: Like Cork, win or draw on Sunday and they’re through. If they lose and Cork win, they’re through. If they lose and Cork lose, they’re still likely to progress because their scoring difference (+16) is far superior to Cork’s (+7) at the minute.
Tipperary: Win on Sunday and they’re through. Draw and they’ll be through if Kilkenny beat Galway. Draw and Kilkenny beat Galway, it’s scoring difference again and theirs (+4) is inferior to both Kilkenny and Galway so they’re likely to lose out. Lose and they’ll still go through if Kilkenny beat Galway.
Galway: Win and they’ll probably go through, although they’ll rely on scoring difference to do so. If they draw and Cork lose, they’ll go out because of their loss to Tipp earlier in the campaign. Lose and they’ll be in a relegation play-off if Waterford beat Dublin.
Waterford: Lose or draw and they’re in a relegation play-off with Dublin. If they win, they’ll be safe if Kilkenny beat Galway, otherwise they’ll still be in a relegation play-off.
Dublin: Definitely in a relegation play-off regardless of results.
Of course, that half an hour we just spent poring over the permutations is likely to be wholly unnecessary come Sunday afternoon, but you’ll thank us if things get a little bit tricky.
The Shake-up in 1B
After all that, you’ll be glad to know that the situation in 1B is a lot less complicated. With a three-point lead at the top, Clare have already secured their place in the final and will face either Offaly, Limerick or Antrim. If Offaly win and Limerick don’t, Offaly will be in the final and vice versa; the same applies if either side earns a draw and the other loses.
If they both win or both draw, it will come down to scoring difference as they drew earlier in the league, and Offaly (+16) have a distinct advantage over the Treaty men (+3) in that regard. The only way Antrim can make the final is if they beat Limerick and Offaly lose, because Offaly have already beaten Antrim this season.
As far as relegation is concerned, it will definitely be Laois and Wexford contesting the play-off regardless of how the results go this weekend.