Ambivalence, in some ways, could best describe our attitude to the league.
The familiar refrain “it's just the league” reinforces the impression that most see it as the poor relation of the GAA's flagship competitions. Name its winners from the last five years? Who cares, I hear you say!
In contrast, few have difficulty remembering, not alone the winners of the Sam Maguire, but also the vanquished in any given year.
The GAA is a rarity among sporting codes in that it values its championship more than its league.
Yet evidence suggests that it is foolish to ignore the reality that teams in the top tier. added to those who have had a good league run in the other divisions, are usually the same who thrive in championship.
This pattern has, despite some notable exceptions, been the reality for the last four or five seasons.
Last year, six teams from Division 1 contested the All Ireland quarter-finals. Of the others, newly promoted Fermanagh translated the confidence from their successful Division 3 run into a commendable performance against Dublin.
Kildare, the remaining quarter finalist, had a stinker in the league. Relegation to the third tier was disastrous for a team who should, along with Meath, be in a position to mount a credible challenge for Leinster honours.
Though they recovered ground with victory over Cork in the qualifiers, the Lilywhites' subsequent capitulation against Kerry left the team bereft.
This example gives qualified support to the argument that a poor league campaign can leave a scar that fails to heal throughout the summer months.
Provided the attitude is right there is something for everyone when it comes to league football.
"Some sceptics swear that a good league campaign can act as an impediment to a successful championship run"
Managers see it as an opportunity to progress and blood new talent at a remove from the pressures of championship. Teams use the competition to improve match fitness and develop different systems of play.
Competitive edges are honed as the issues of gaining promotion and avoiding relegation are prioritised.
Last year, games in each division were generally well contested. If one excludes the Longford v London and Offaly v Wicklow games, the average winning margin in the 26 remaining Division 4 games was less than three points.
Margins were a little higher in Divisions 2 and 3 but games were generally competitive. Playing in Division 1 though remains the goal. Here the best players, the most generously resourced and, as evidence proves, the teams who remain longest in the championship compete.
Furthermore, attitudes differ. Avoiding relegation is the overriding imperative and winning the competition, while seldom prioritised, is simply an acceptable bonus.
Six points (seven last year) supported by a healthy score difference has guaranteed survival over the last three seasons. Kerry, have been the master escapologists in that period, doing just enough to finish sixth in the top flight.
Some sceptics swear that a good league campaign can act as an impediment to a successful championship run. Cork and Dublin though have knocked this notion conclusively on the head in recent years.
The Leesiders did the double in 2010 and by repeating the feat in 2013 and 2015, the Dubs confirmed that a successful league campaign can be a prelude to winning the ultimate prize in September.
It is true that an unintended consequence of an impressive league performances can be to magnify expectation and create undue pressure.
The effort expended in striving for promotion often leaves a team shorn of energy and motivation later in the season. Attitudes often harden against those who, despite a successful spring campaign, crash to earth later on.
"It is the competition that provides every team with the bulk of its competitive games"
Consider Roscommon’s experience last year. They impressed and peaked in the league.The defeats to Sligo and later to Fermanagh in the championship were equally unexpected and devastating.
The comfort blanket of achieving successive promotions counted for little in the eyes of their supporters. Championship exit was what struck a chord.
As a consequence of floundering in the competition that mattered most their manager John Evans stepped aside.
Many teams use the league for trial and experiment. Managers at times like to underplay their hand. In an era when analysis and dissemination of all aspects of style and strategy are common, exposing too much can occasionally backfire and leave teams vulnerable.
Every team likes to keep something in reserve so it is prudent to reserve judgement on a team’s worth until after championship.
While I accept that the summer campaign ultimately defines a team’s reputation, it is nevertheless unwise to underestimate the benefits that can accrue from a successful league.
It is the competition that provides every team with the bulk of its competitive games. Here players can declare their talents and teams seek to improve. Without real engagement here there will be little growth.
Listen to Dublin v Kerry live on RTÉ Radio 1 from 6.55pm on Saturday and watch highlights from the first round of Allianz Football League action on 'League Sunday' at 7.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.