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All changed ... four in the hunt for final berths and not a Sky Blue in sight

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Kerry’s Peter Keane

Kerry’s Peter Keane

SPORTSFILE

Kerry’s Peter Keane

For all the talk that Dublin had more interest in Brexit than in defending their league crown, very few would have predicted a last-day scenario such as tomorrow's ... four in the hunt for a Division 1 final berth, and not a Sky Blue jersey in sight.

Truth is, even in third gear, Dublin would have been fancied to eke out enough results to be still alive heading for Cavan (who can still avoid but are on the brink of relegation).

Instead, all the focus is on Omagh, Castlebar and the Hyde. And not merely in a title-chasing contest, because Monaghan and Roscommon are also scrapping for survival.

Still, most attention is at the top end, where Kerry (despite last week's home reversal against Mayo, their first defeat under Peter Keane) are best positioned to reach the decider. They are on ten points, two clear of Galway and Mayo and three ahead of Tyrone, as they head for a relegation-haunted Roscommon. A draw will guarantee Kerry's progress; even a surprise defeat probably wouldn't prove fatal.

Squeezed

But it could, and here's how: Kerry's scoring difference is +11 whereas Galway's is zero and Mayo's +7. So if, for example, Keane's table-toppers lost to the Rossies by a six-point margin, Galway won by an identical margin in Tyrone and Mayo beat Monaghan, you would have three teams tied on ten points - and Kerry squeezed out on scoring difference.

When permutations get that convoluted, you're talking about a very long shot.

For starters, even an in-form Galway appreciate the scale of the challenge facing them in Healy Park. After a depressing start, Tyrone have been the most consistently impressive team through the second half of this league campaign.

They hit a spring high in Croke Park last Saturday when their new tactical blueprint of kicking early and often into two converted target men, Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly, struck gold against the ultimate benchmark.

All of which gives Tyrone an outside chance of completing a stunning blindside final run.

But it's not all in their own hands. The first prerequisite is to secure a fourth consecutive win - easier said than done, even against such obdurate opponents as Galway. Then they must crave a Monaghan favour in Castlebar, for even a Mayo draw would ensure that they finish ahead of Tyrone on the head-to-head rule.

As yes, Mayo. Even just six games back into his second coming, James Horan knows all about the gloriously unpredictable oscillations of life in the green-and-red hotseat.

Their latest triumph on Kerry soil - a recurring theme this decade - was badly needed after their back-to-back losses to Dublin and Galway.

We'd argue that its importance had less to do with top-flight title ambitions and more to do with morale and valuable lessons learned - such as hitting upon arguably their best midfield partnership in the guise of an inspired Aidan O'Shea and ghosting goal threat Matthew Ruane.

For all that, Mayo now have a real shot at reaching the final ... but again, their fate is intertwined with that of Galway's.

If Kerry get a result in Roscommon while Mayo and Galway finish level on points (by both winning or both drawing) then the latter would reach the final by dint of their earlier head-to-head victory in Castlebar.

So, amid all the confusion, who will be in Croker, eight days from now?

Notwithstanding Roscommon's decent home record, you can't back against Kerry.

Our hunch is that Mayo will join them - despite the difficult challenge posed by the enduring brilliance of Conor McManus and Monaghan's desire to stave off the still-lingering threat of demotion.

But don't take our word. When anything can happen on the last day, it usually does.


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