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Everything still to play for

It couldn't have turned out better. When the league final pairings in Division 1 football and hurling were known in advance of the last round 12 months ago, it led to questions about league structures and certainly hastened the return of league semi-finals for next season.

But the situation is so different in the 2011 football league, with only Dublin and Mayo from the first three divisions (24 counties) not having something tangible to play for this weekend. Everyone else is either scrapping for promotion or relegation from one of the divisions.

In Division 3 alone, five teams can still conceivably get promoted, but five can also still drop down, depending on a whole sequence of results.

In Division 4, three teams still entertain hopes of joining Roscommon in a league final. Here are the county by county best and worst case scenarios:

Division 1

Dublin -- Home and hosed, a first Division 1 league final for 12 years awaits them.

Cork -- Will join Dublin if they beat Armagh at home, as they have head-to-head advantage over Kerry. They are the only teams that can finish on 10 points.

Kerry -- Need Armagh to do them a favour with a draw or a win over Cork. They have to beat Down themselves.

Down -- They must beat Kerry first and yet, like Kerry, they're relying on Armagh mining something from their trip to Cork. Bearing in mind what happened when Armagh last travelled south, that's unlikely.

Mayo -- Division 1 beckons in 2012 again, and along with Dublin they are the only team in the top flight with nothing to play for this weekend.

Armagh -- Now it gets really interesting. A win in Cork will end all arguments. But if they lose and Galway and Monaghan both prevail against Dublin and Mayo respectively, then three teams are on four points. Armagh have a +14 advantage over Galway and +4 advantage over Monaghan, so it gives them small comfort.

Their worst-case scenario is for Galway to win and Monaghan to lose. They'll then join Monaghan for the drop on the head to head with Galway last weekend.

Monaghan -- The only way they can survive is to beat Mayo and hope Armagh lose to Cork by enough to help close the +4 gap between them. They also require Galway to win to lock three teams on four points and avoid the head to head with Armagh.

Galway -- Their best-case scenario would see Mayo beating Monaghan and their own success over Dublin in Pearse Stadium. If Monaghan beat Mayo then Galway would have to post a really big win over Dublin, 11 points or more, depending on the size of Monaghan's win, to have any chance.

Division 2

Donegal -- Not there yet but so close. A 28-point surplus is healthy if things get tight and more than two teams are locked on 10 points. They'd have to lose heavily in Laois to be vulnerable.

Laois -- Conceivably Laois could lose to Donegal and still get promotion, provided Tyrone, Derry and Kildare lost to Meath, Antrim and Sligo respectively, and a scoring surplus of +19 for Laois wasn't too badly damaged. In the expectancy that Tyrone and Derry will win, however, Laois must prevail and hope a +4 advantage over Tyrone can be protected.

Tyrone -- Four straight wins have turned their season around impressively. They must beat Meath or else hope Donegal inflict a heavy defeat on Laois and Derry lose to Antrim. If Donegal beat Laois and Tyrone and Derry win, Derry will be promoted on the head to head.

Derry -- They have no chance if more than two teams are locked together on 10 points because their scoring difference is -10. If Laois lose to Donegal and Tyrone beat Meath, they will go through on the head to head.

Kildare -- They need a victory over Sligo and a bizarre sequence of results to make the final. Laois, Tyrone and Derry would all have to lose for that to happen. Unlikely.

Sligo -- Their draw against Donegal in the opening round will have been invaluable if all three bottom teams lose this weekend. A win over Kildare would secure their passage.

Meath -- Survival is out of their hands. They must beat Tyrone and hope that Derry and Kildare prevail against Antrim and Sligo.

Antrim -- All bets are off if they don't beat Derry. If they do and Meath beat Tyrone they would both be on four points, but Antrim would make it on the head to head.

Division 3

Five teams still have prospects of being promoted but five teams still have one foot close to the trapdoor to Division 4 too -- it's that tight.

The key match is Westmeath and Offaly. A win for either side would secure promotion regardless of other results. A draw would leave Westmeath depending on other results.

Wexford are away to Limerick where a draw may be sufficient. Louth have stumbled badly but a win in Waterford, allied to wins for Limerick, Cavan (over Tipperary) and Offaly would vault them into second position on their own.

Tipperary need to win in Cavan and hope Offaly, Limerick and Waterford win to isolate them on eight points with Wexford, where their head to head will pull them up.

At the other end it's just as tight. Waterford are in the greatest trouble as their score difference is -12. So even a win over Louth might not spare them.

Division 4

Roscommon are promoted but who will join them? The Longford v Carlow match is key. A Longford win would see them back up without paying heed to any other result.

If Carlow were to win, however, attention would turn to how Wicklow get on against Clare. Wicklow and Carlow drew in their earlier match so head to head wouldn't influence but Wicklow's +45 surplus could see them through.

Irish Independent

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