The deep breath before the plunge

The 2013 National Hurling League has been a blast. How much of a blast? This much of a blast:

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So it’s been a blast, and that’s even before you consider the satisfaction to be had from individual wins like last Sunday. Amazingly my match report, written in a frenzy of inspiration on Sunday evening rather than having to be dragged out of me throughout Monday, managed to understate the thrills and spills of the closing stages of the game. Thankfully Giveitfong was on hand to note how things were even more dramatic than I had described, with the Lar Corbett effort that dropped short coming when the teams were level  rather than Tipperary being a point ahead like I said, and doffing the cap to Brian O’Sullivan for calmly hustling Brendan Cummins into a hurried clearance that led to Kevin Moran’s winning score. It’s only fitting to acknowledge a sequence of events that, all other things being equal, moved us from 5th to 1st on the Division 1A table:

2013 NHL Division 1A table after five rounds

Enjoy that? Good, because it’s time to move on . . . okay, look at it one more time, then we’ll move on.

Given Waterford’s Herculean efforts, it’s a bit galling to have to confront the possibility that it might not be enough to preserve our top flight status into a 16th consecutive season. Then again, in the A < B < C < A world of this year’s League we should be grateful for any advantage. It seems head-to-head counts only when there are just two teams on the same number of points, so that’s not going to be an issue for Waterford – if we only have five then Galway will also have five and two more teams will have to have five so points difference is going to be what matters. After much chewing the fat on the Waterford GAA thread on, we’ve worked out that any of the following outcomes means survival:

  • Waterford beat Galway. No-one can overtake us then.
  • Waterford draw with Galway. We finish ahead of Galway and any combination of results in the other games will leave at least two other teams below us.

Should we lose, then we can still survive if:

  • both the other games result in a win for someone, anyone. That would leave two teams on four points and we’re safe.
  • one of the games ends in draw but we lose to Galway by three or fewer points. We finish ahead of the loser of the game that wasn’t a draw and of Galway by one point.

We’ll end up in the bottom two if:

  • we lose and both of the other games end in a draw. Everyone ends up on five points and seeing as we currently have the second-worst points difference we can only get worse.
  • we lose by more than four points and one of the other games ends in the draw. We’ll finish ahead of the other losing who will only have four points but behind the winners of that game, the two teams who drew, and of course Galway.

It’s convoluted, but the good news is that the scenarios which involve us staying up are far more likely than ones which see us going down, relying as they do on draws. When playing Dublin last year one ear was being kept on the game between Kilkenny and Galway, and we needn’t have worried as Kilkenny had taken Galway to the cleaners by half-time. It’s not hard to see an enraged/worried Kilkenny – the idea that they might be worried will no doubt enrage them –  doing something similar to Cork, which leaves us just needing someone to be a point ahead at the end of the Clare-Tipp game. And if we win, all of this is moot and we’re in the League knockout stages for the first time since 2008. But on the day that Dungarvan Colleges bearded the St Kieran’s lion, let’s only have one Waterford team getting notions above their station, mkay?