All to play for in Football League
WITH one round of the Allianz Football League remaining, it's still all to play for with the added complication that if two promotion chasers or relegation candidates finish level on points, their respective fates will be decided by head-to-head results, not scoring difference.
Only in the case of points deadlock involving three or more teams will scoring difference apply.
This prompted an amazed reaction from Tyrone boss Mickey Harte when told of the rule change on Saturday night. "So, they tell us when the season is over? That's unreal, that we are playing games of that nature and that our season depends on something that nobody has actually told us about," said a bemused Harte, whose Tyrone charges are still in a top-flight relegation scrap despite their last-gasp victory over Kerry at Healy Park.
Here is a quick synopsis of the various permutations in the top three divisions ahead of the last round on April 11 (there are two sets of fixtures still be played in Division Four) ...
TITLE RACE: Mayo and Cork (10pts each) are in pole position, but neither is guaranteed to reach the final. Dublin (8pts) can still qualify if they win in Tyrone and Mayo lose in Cork, in which case Dublin's earlier victory in Castlebar would see them leapfrog Mayo. However, if both Dublin and Mayo win, then the Sky Blues would be squeezed out courtesy of their earlier loss on Leeside while a Cork/Mayo draw would be good enough for both sides, come what may in Omagh.
RELEGATION: Derry (2pts) can still mathematically escape, but only if they beat Galway, Tyrone lose to Dublin, there's a winner between Kerry/Monaghan (preferably Kerry, given their respective scoring differences) and Derry win by a big enough margin to see them edge out Tyrone and one other on scoring difference. A long shot, suffice to say. Neither Kerry, Monaghan nor Tyrone (all 4pts) are safe, but Monaghan look the most likely fall guys given they must travel to the Kingdom. However, if Derry don't win and if Tyrone and Monaghan both lose, the Farney will survive because they've already beaten Tyrone, who would drop to Division Two.
PROMOTION: Down (11pts) are already home, hosed and heading for the top-flight. Then it's a straight shootout between Armagh and Donegal (both 8pts) for the second promotion slot and league final place ... and to make matters simpler still, they face each other in Ballybofey. In the event of a draw, Armagh (+21) will edge out the Tir Chonaill men (+18).
RELEGATION: A pointless Westmeath are doomed and so are Tipperary (3pts), given they're three points adrift of their nearest rivals.
PROMOTION: The fate of Antrim (10pts) is in their own hands - all they need is a draw in Wexford to be safe. If Wexford (8pts) win and Sligo (8pts) beat Roscommon, this would leave a three-way tie at the top but Antrim should still sneak through because their scoring difference is currently far superior (+26, compared to +7 for both Sligo and Wexford), in which case the winning margins for Sligo and Wexford would separate these two. And now it gets complicated: if Wexford and Sligo both lose, and if Cavan (6pts) beat Fermanagh while there's a winner between Offaly and Louth (both 6pts), we would have a four-way tie for second place!
RELEGATION: Thankfully straight-forward, with Roscommon and Fermanagh (2pts apiece) both down and out.