THE FINAL WEEKEND of the Allianz National Football League promises plenty of drama with only two teams in the top three divisions having nothing to play for.
We attempt to make sense of all the final-round’s permutations. And fail.
Fixtures (all Sunday at 2.30pm):
- Cork v Armagh, Páirc Uí Chaoimh
- Galway v Dublin, Pearse Stadium
- Kerry v Down, Killarney
- Monaghan v Mayo, Inniskeen
Dublin are through to the league final, their first in 12 years, following the win over Down last weekend. Of the other seven teams, only Mayo have nothing to play for – their win over All-Ireland champions Cork last weekend means they’re safe from relegation, and they’re out of the running to join Dublin in the final.
Cork, Kerry and Down are all still in contention for a place the final but the Rebels are best placed to take that spot – they’re on eight points, the same total as Kerry, but having beaten the Kingdom in the opening game in February they’re ahead of their Munster rivals according to the competition’s tiebreaker rules. Any slip by Cork against Armagh will open the door for Kerry and Down, who go head-to-head in Killarney.
At the bottom, Galway‘s surprise win over Armagh at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday means that nobody is yet certain of relegation – two out of Galway, Armagh andMonaghan will go. With four points, Armagh hold the whip hand but they face one of the most daunting assignments in Gaelic football against Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
There are four possible relegation scenarios. Deep breath…
Scenario (a): If Armagh draw or win on Leeside, both Galway and Monaghan will go down regardless of the outcome of their games
Scenario (b): If Galway and Armagh only end up on the same points (i.e., Galway defeat Dublin in Salthill, Armagh lose and Monaghan don’t win), then Galway will stay up and Armagh will go down, as Galway have the better of the head-to-head record courtesy of last weekend’s result.
Scenario (c): If Monaghan and Armagh only end up on the same points (i.e., Monaghan defeat Mayo, Armagh lose and Galway don’t win), then Armagh will stay up and Monaghan will go down, as Armagh defeated Monaghan earlier in the campaign.
Scenario (d): If all three sides end up on the same points (i.e., Armagh lose, both Galway and Monaghan win), then points difference will come into it. At the moment, Armagh’s difference is -10, Monaghan’s -14 and Galway’s -24, so Galway would be doomed without a landslide win over the Dubs.
Fixtures (all Sunday at 2.30pm)
- Antrim v Derry, Casement Park
- Kildare v Sligo, Newbridge
- Laois v Donegal, Portlaoise
- Meath v Tyrone, Páirc Tailteann
This one’s pure and utter nuts. At the top, there are still five sides in the running for promotion and a place in the final. Donegal lead the way on 10 points, Laois, Derry and Tyrone are all on 8 and Kildare are not out of it either on seven.
A win or a draw for Donegal, and they’re in the final. Even a narrow defeat (four points or less) would not be enough to deny them a place in the final, as their current score difference of +28 is markedly superior to Laois (+19), Tyrone (+15) and Derry (-10).
Kildare have to win to have any chance of joining them there, and even a win will not be enough for the Lilywhites if any of Laois, Tyrone or Derry win their games.
Now, to try to sort out the rest of the mess.
As it stands, with Laois, Derry and Tyrone level on points, Laois are ahead on score difference.
Scenario (a): If all three win next weekend (which would leave the top four locked together on 10 points) Derry will effectively be out of the running due to their poor points difference. Promotion and a place in the final would then rest on the margins of victory and the effect they have on the score difference columns of Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.
Scenario (b): If Laois get the better of Donegal, and either Derry or Tyrone also win, then three teams will be tied on ten points and score difference will decide. In that case, a Laois win by five points or more will take them past Donegal and assure them of a place in the final.
Scenario (c): If just one of Laois, Tyrone and Derry win, then the winning team will be promoted along with Donegal.
Scenario (d): If Donegal, Derry and Tyrone win, then Donegal will top the group and Derry will join them in the final on account of their win over Tyrone back in February.
Now, another minefield: Division 2 relegation.
Scenario (a): If Sligo win in Kildare, they’re safe. If they lose, and both Antrim and Meath also lose, they’re safe. If they lose, and either Antrim or Meath win, they’re relegated.
Scenario (b): If Sligo draw, Meath win and Antrim lose, Meath survive (on their head-to-head with Sligo) and the other two go down.
Scenario (c): If Sligo draw, Antrim win and Meath lose, Sligo survive (on their head-to-head with Antrim) and the other two go down.
Scenario (d): If Sligo draw, and Meath and Antrim both win, then the three teams will be level on four points, and points difference comes into play. In that case, Antrim are doomed – their difference is -35, as opposed to -9 for Sligo and -11 for Meath – while Meath will need to win by more than two to survive.
Let’s just hope, for everyone’s sake, that Sligo don’t draw.
Fixtures (all Sunday at 2.30pm)
- Cavan v Tipperary, Kingspan Breffni Park
- Limerick v Wexford, Newcastlewest
- Waterford v Louth, Dungarvan
- Westmeath v Offaly, Cusack Park
Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Like Division 2, all eight sides still have something to play for. Only four points covers the lot of them, for heaven’s sake. Theoretically, both Louth and Tipperary are both still in the running for promotion and in danger of relegation, but we won’t even go there.
As it stands, Wexford and Offaly are on 8, Westmeath on 7 and Louth and Tipp on 6.
The simplest reading of it is this: (a) Westmeath and Offaly is winner-take-all, and (b) Wexford win in Limerick and they’re certain of a place in the final.
The fun starts if Limerick beat Wexford, which leaves Louth and Tipp within touching distance. And it’ll get even crazier if Westmeath beat Offaly, and one or both of Louth and Tipperary win, which would leave three or four teams together on eight points. Only nine points covers the points difference of the top five, so anything can happen. And it probably will.
At the bottom, Waterford and Limerick are currently in the bottom two on 4 points, and both know that if they lose, they’re gone.
Waterford have the worst points difference of any of the relegation candidates (-12) so they’ll have to win against Louth in Dungarvan to have any chance of staying up. A win for Cavan, who go into the weekend on 5 points, and they’re safe.
The nightmare scenario, for anyone trying to work this stuff out, would see Waterford defeat Louth, Tipp lose in Cavan and Limerick beat Wexford. That would leave four sides – Waterford, Limerick, Tipperary and Louth – locked together at the bottom on six points, with points difference to determine the two to be relegated.
Fixtures (all Sunday at 2.30pm)
- Fermanagh v London, Brewster Park
- Longford v Carlow, Pearse Park
- Roscommon v Leitrim, Dr Hyde Park
- Wicklow v Clare, Aughrim
Praise the lord for Division 4!
Roscommon are in the final. They’re on 13 points, three ahead of their nearest pursuers, and can’t be caught.
Who joins them there is between Longford (on 10 points), Wicklow and Carlow (both on 9).
Scenario (a): If Longford win, they’re promoted and in the final, irrespective of the other results.
Scenario (b): If Longford and Carlow draw, and Wicklow beat Clare, it would leave Longford and Wicklow together on 11 points. The normal tiebreaker is the head-to-head record, but as the sides drew their game, then score difference comes into it, and it couldn’t be much closer – as it stands, Longford are on +46 and Wicklow on +45.
However, in this scenario, it’s a lot more straightforward than it might look at first glance. A Wicklow win over Clare would take them at least level with Longford on score difference, and because Wicklow have been scoring for fun – they’ve tallied 31 points more than Longford in their seven games to date – then Mick O’Dwyer’s men will come out on top on the numbers.
Scenario (c): If Carlow and Wicklow both win, then they’ll be together on 11 points. They’re inseparable on head-to-head, having also drawn their game, but again, Wicklow have a huge advantage on both score difference and score total.
Scenario (d): The only way Carlow can get promoted is by winning in Longford and hoping Wicklow fail to beat Clare.
At the bottom of Division 4, there is no relegation.
Amen to that.