herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Blood, sweat and tears in the top two tiers beckon

Mayo's Mickey Sweeney shows his disappointment after the game
Mayo's Mickey Sweeney shows his disappointment after the game

THE Croke Park computer couldn't have planned it better, with a sequence of head-to-head meetings on Easter Sunday set to decide who joins Cork in the Allianz Football League top-flight semi-finals - and who follows Derry through the relegation trap door, writes FRANK ROCHE.

The second tier is an even more congested battleground, with six teams still theoretically in the shake-up for two promotion places - while two of those same counties, and four in total, remain in the relegation mix.

DIVISION ONE

Leave aside the Derry/Cork dead rubber, and it's still everything to play for. Having banished any relegation fears with back-to-back wins, third-placed Dublin (7pts) can seal another semi-final place with victory in Clones, leapfrogging Monaghan (8pts) in the process. A draw should be enough, in any event - but defeat could leave the current league champions squeezed out.

Mayo (6pts) and Donegal (6pts) square up in Castlebar, with the victors set to make the knockout stages. Kerry (also 6pts) aren't safe and will be facing relegation if they lose to Tyrone (4pts) by two points or more in Omagh. Mickey Harte's men probably look favourites for relegation, especially given their recent poor record in Healy Park (three wins in their last 11); but a last-day victory could save them and lead to demotion for Kerry or, less probably, Mayo or Donegal.

DIVISION TWO

TRY making sense of the following logjam: Down (8pts) lead the way from Cavan, Meath and Roscommon (all 7pts), Galway (6pts), Laois (5pts), Kildare and Westmeath (both 4pts).

Having lost at home to Meath, Down revisit Páirc Esler with a chance to atone against Laois. The Navan clash of Meath (scoring difference +14) and Cavan (+3) looks a winner-takes-all promotion showdown - unless, of course, Roscommon (+1) inflict further relegation pain on Westmeath in Mullingar and make scoring difference headway in the process.

Kildare can complete an unlikely relegation escape by beating Galway away, presuming other results don't conspire against them.

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