Mayo's Alan Freeman and Eoin Brosnan of Kerry during last year's All Ireland semi-final. ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Throw in: 5 things to look out for in the National Football League today

It’s open season on managers, but don’t forget there’s still the matter of League titles to be played for.


You would be hard pressed to know there are some tasty games to look forward to on Sunday, what with all the managerial rumblings.

Truth is, all of the attention afforded Messrs. Andrews and McEnaney suggests a somewhat muted interest in the introduction of this years semi-finals. We haven’t seen a semi-final format since the farce of 2007 when we had two top divisions and nearly everyone got relegated.

Mayo are the only survivors from 2007′s quartet making a return to a format that seems to suit them. They contested the league semi-finals in 05,06 and 07. With no silverware to show I might add. They square up to Kerry for the second time in seven days after their draw in Tralee.

They have finally found their game face after beating the Dubs out the gate in Castlebar and would relish a chance to get one over their nemesis. Unfortunately for Mayo, Kerry are taking this one seriously and have called in the big guns.

Three in a row

The last team to contest three NFL finals in a row was Dublin in 87,88 and 89, beating Kerry in 87 but leaving the other two behind. The metropolitans appeared in four in a row between 75 and 78 taking home the spoils on two occasions.

That came hot on the heels of Kerry’s four in a row in which the kingdom prevailed on all flour occasions. The NFL will always play second fiddle to the Championship but the great sides are always there or thereabouts come NFL final day.

It could be argued that pre 2002 (modern re-formatting of the league structure) the league was a poor indicator of All-Ireland pedigree with just 26% of the league winners bagging Sam in the same season. Since then it has jumped to 55%.

Cork need a huge season if they are to realise their potential. A third league title in as many years would set them up nicely for their annual showdown with their neighbours. Standing in their way are the unpredictable Mournemen with revenge on their minds.

Division 4

Given the complete lack of coverage afforded to the basement of the NFL it is somewhat refreshing that their extra round of fixtures come when the other three divisions are relatively quiet. Fermanagh top the table and are already guaranteed promotion and a league final berth.

The Ernesiders are one of only three teams who are yet to lose this season. A stat that will stand to them on June 3rd when they face Down in Brewster Park for a place in the Ulster semi-final. Before that though, who they face in the Division four league final is still up for grabs. It is a little skewed by the lack of relegation threat meaning a lot of the teams have nothing to play for on the final day.

Something the GAA might want to address given Kilkenny’s form and the success in league Hurling of teams like Fingal and Warwickshire. Could we introduce a fifth division? As it is, the second promotion spot has boiled down to a shootout between Clare and Wicklow in Aughrim on Sunday.

An absolutely massive game for both counties. A draw would be enough to ensure the Banner play the likes of Meath next season instead of Carlow. For the Garden County any win would mean division three football. Such a shame its not being covered live. Expect the white heat of championship.

The never ending story

You might be forgiven for assuming this column has some sort of addiction to the Seanie Johnston saga. Every couple of weeks there are fresh rumours and accusations. The latest twist is the resignation of Val Andrews. On Tuesday night the management team received a vote of no confidence from the players.

It was a shame the news overshadowed the excellent results being achieved at U-21 level. That success was overseen by Terry Hyland who was actually joint manager last summer. He is now favourite to take over from Val. A lot of people are now wondering if this opens the door for Seanie to come back and play for his native Breffni. Surely Hyland was part of the decision to drop him back then though.

Terry Hyland in charge of Cavan under 21′s on Wednesday. / ©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

Hyland was a selector after all. This all comes against the backdrop of Seanie Johnston’s transfer request looking like it will finally be accepted. On the second time of asking. At this stage there are plenty who would like to see him left without either county wanting his services but people should remember we are talking about amateur sportsmen.

With Val pushed out yet again and a set of players united in getting what they want, the return of the messiah might be just the ticket for an assault on Ulster. They better get things settled down quick sharp though. A date with Donegal on May 20th awaits.

A new dawn

The GAA will swear in a new president at tomorrow’s annual congress. With the football league finally starting to reflect the existing hierarchy it is football’s rule book that looks set to be in new president Liam O’Neill’s sights. O’Neill was behind the narrowly defeated experimental rules of 2009 so expect some sort repeat for next season’s league.

The much discussed mark, where a player catching a kick-out cleanly between both 45′s is awarded a free kick will no doubt feature. So too will the proposed moving of the penalty spot closer to goal and full-time coming once the ball is next out of play.

Other more worrying rule changes involve altering the double-hop rule to allow players to hop the ball as many times as they like without catching it and effectively abolishing the square ball rule.

O’Neill looks likely to be in a position to achieve change given he was the first president to be elected unopposed in the association’s history. He also pushed the recent restructuring of hurling through with amazing speed. Most agree some change is needed but managers are a cynical bunch. Lets hope any rule changes appreciate that.

So enjoy the rest of the league because football as we know it might be about to change forever.

(Semi)-final Countdown: here are the Kerry and Mayo teams for Sunday’s meeting

Emmett McNamara
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