Every aspiring politician will at least know of Niccolò Machiavelli. He was, of course, the original cute hoor of the Italian Renaissance, whose classic treatise on statecraft, The Prince, has been well thumbed by generations of politicians all over the world, not least by our own Fianna Fail backwoodsmen. Niccolò was a smart lad and, in The Prince, he provides valuable advice to those exercising power who, on the one hand, must be above public reproach while, at the same time, getting up to all manner of nefarious activities behind the scenes to ensure that the greater public good is satisfied.
Which brings us neatly to this weekend’s final round of NFL matches before the playoffs. (Hands up all those in the playoffs? Not so quick Misters O’Shea, Harte and Caffrey!) Those three poor wretches – Kerry, Tyrone and Dublin – who sit below us in the table are scrapping it out for the two Division 1 places on offer for next year and, as Pat, Mickey and Pillar are well aware, three into two won’t go. The Dubs play Kerry (though, to national media chagrin, not for a place in the semis and not at Croker either) while we travel to Omagh to face Tyrone.
As this particular race reaches the final bend, the Dubs are in the ha’penny (or putative Division 2) place, needing a win over Kerry to retain their Division 1 status. A draw could do Dublin, but only if we beat Tyrone, in which case Tyrone would fall to Division 2. Kerry can afford to lose to the Dubs but, again, only if we beat Tyrone. If we lose and Kerry do too, then it’s the cute hoors from the South-West who fall through the trapdoor. Which is where our friend Niccolò Machiavelli comes back into it.
I don’t know about you but, were I asked to choose which county out of the three struggling wretches that I’d like to see fall to Division 2, it would have to be Kerry. Dublin are kinda nice to have around – for hole-kicking purposes – and our head-to-head record against Tyrone is quite good too. But Kerry . . . yes, need I go on? Relegation wouldn’t be the end of the world to them but for a county that sees league success as a handy training exercise prior to launching its annual assault on the All-Ireland, it would, to paraphrase Gerry Adams, be a bit pussed off to find itself down among the great unwashed of Division 2. Who knows? It might even start a whispering campaign against Pat O’Shea and cause sufficient rancour to destabilise them and generally bugger up their championship preparations. It’s got to be worth a shot.
What advice would our friend Niccolò give to that other aspiring politician were he to join Johnno’s inner circle this week? Go for another win in Omagh, to keep the run going? Or, maybe, decide that this would be a really good opportunity to blood a few 16 year-olds? (Which it would, of course, as Tyrone know plenty about drawing blood). I know, I know, we’d still be relying on the Dubs to fulfil their part of the bargain - a big ask, even in the partisan surroundings of Parnell Park - but the temptation to, ahem, help events on their way must be there, mustn’t it?
Johnno has already hinted that he does indeed intend to change the team for Sunday, now that the result of that particular match is of little immediate interest to The Cause. But how many changes is he likely to make and will he be browsing through his FG-supplied copy of The Prince while doing so?