Dead rubbers may be the bane of the GAA’s National League structures but I assure you that much as it discommodes the media, Croke Park officials and spectators, none are quite so vulnerable to a downside on an uncompetitive fixture than your friendly neighbourhood bookmaking plc.
While punters get to make a decision about which games to invest their pocket money in, us grafters in the bookmaking fraternity put our hands up with an opinion on every game.
No amount of number crunching, nor hours reviewing matches and late nights spent in the form book will make you any wiser as to how the likes of Mayo, Dublin, Roscommon and the bottom five teams in Division 4 are going to account themselves this weekend. Dublin would not be as chunky a price as 4/7 if they needed points from their trip to Galway.
Games involving those teams won’t stand much resistance from the market and if you fancy a price, I’d advise to take it quickly as there will be plenty of fluctuation, bearing in mind we have no idea what the starting 15s are going to be when we released our match prices on Monday evening.
Aside from the games we have question marked, there are too a number of very competitive fixtures this weekend. Kerry and Down meet in a clash that sees both teams in contention for a spot in the league final against Dublin – though they each need Armagh to do them a favour to keep Cork out of the spring finale.
This game is a reprise of their All Ireland Quarter Final last season where the Ulster side toppled the kingdom. The betting this weekend is very similar to that occasion. Kerry are 4/11 favourites, and give up 3 points on an even money handicap line.
Kerry’s problems at midfield found a deeper hole this week with news that David Moran’s knee injury was to be a long term issue. There seems to be much that Jack O’Connor has to work out ahead of the summer, though the return of Declan O’Sullivan is a big boost to their chances this weekend.
We may even see the return of Paul Galvin. I expect Kerry to win quite snugly thanks to the quality of their formidable front six.
Tyrone’s trip to Meath is one of the most intriguing fixtures this weekend. Tyrone, with a few other results going their way, could find themselves in a Division 2 final, while Meath could suffer the indignity of slipping in to third tier of the league.
There would be little regal about such a humiliation for the Royal county.
Having squandered a healthy lead and a wind advantage against Derry last time out, things look to be going from bad to worse for Meath. One positive grain in the sandstorm of negativity is that they managed to score three goals – a feat not achieved by a Meath side in the league since 2008.
If they can keep their eye in for goal they may oblige for punters at 7/4, but I would rather have my money carried by an ominously improving Tyrone side at odds of 4/7.
Having suffered two defeats in their opening games in Division 2, Mickey Harte’s men come in to this game on the back of four solid wins including an eight point drubbing of Kildare last week. Tyrone conceded only five points against a Lilywhites side which posted a tally of 17 against Meath only two weeks previous.
The Ulster champions also had the luxury of unveiling Brian Dooher and Philip Jordan last weekend for their seasonal bows. Much as I expect Meath to endeavour, scrap and compete, I don’t think they will have the cohesion to stop a Tyrone machine which is moving through the gears with tilts at summer silverware in mind. They should be well capable of covering the 2 point spread at evens