Tuesday 23 January 2018

Stand-outs Down to prevail in a Croke Park 'dead rubber' against the Rossies


(Croke Park, Tomorrow, 2.0, Live TG4)

IT'S difficult to think of a sporting event quite so pointless as the Division 2 final of the Allianz Football League...except, of course, for the finals of Division 3 and 4 of the same competition.

To illustrate.

On Monday last, Down's Donal O'Hare and Roscommon's Neil Collins were invited to Croke Park for a media conference ahead of League finals week.

O'Hare spoke for just shy of seven minutes, discussing relevant matters such as the turning points in Down's season (their win over Kildare), the plight of Marty Clarke and all about Caolan Mooney, Jim McCorry and Fermanagh.

Collins, in his natter with the gathered hackery, covered his county's high achieving under-21s, John Evans and his own tastes in fashion.


Tomorrow's clash between the respective counties (Croke Park, 4.0) went unasked and thus, unmentioned. Roscommon travel to Ruislip four Sundays from this coming weekend to start their Connacht opener.

Down are in Celtic Park for their Ulster bow against Derry a fortnight further into summer.

In the grand scheme of things, tomorrow's match - the result, performance etc. - will register not a blip on the seasonal radars of both counties.

Promotion has been assured. Both counties are looking forward to the Championship and thereafter, a spring in the topflight.

Why then, play for the title of champions, in a paradoxical 'dead rubber' final.

Indeed, it's hard not to assume that without saying so, both McCorry or Evans might see this match as something of an inconvenience.

Last year, Monaghan beat a Donegal team just home from one of many training camps they undertook that season, a result that seemed to back up a shift in power in Ulster after Malachy O'Rourke's team's provincial title at Jim McGuinness's expense the previous summer.

It was powered largely by inevitability then, that Donegal won back the Anglo Celt Cup, beating Monaghan less than two months later.

Predictably, Evans won't have his under-21 contingent a week out from their All-Ireland final against Tyrone.

McCorry, meanwhile, has said all the right things in the preamble to this but you'd bet anything his gaze - and that of Evans - have long since turned towards bigger things.

"It's a knockout game," he said.

"It's championship football now and we're expecting another tough encounter."

ODDS: Down 10/11, Draw 15/2, Roscommon 6/5 VERDICT: Down

ALLIANZ DIVision 2 Final

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