After an afternoon of high drama in Division 1 of the Allianz League, the only certainties are that Dublin will definitely play in next month’s final while Roscommon will play Division 2 football next season.
Two of today’s three contests in the top flight, the Cavan v Kerry and Donegal v Monaghan matches ended in draws, while Mayo finally injected some life into their season with a one point win over Tyrone.
The victory, which confirms their recent superiority over Tyrone, means their fate in the top flight is back in their own hand again – indeed, they could mathematically reach the final.
There was no shortage of drama in the Omagh showdown, which was a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland quarter final which Mayo also won by a point.
Referee Conor Lane was a central figure issuing an early black card to Tyrone’s Niall Sludden for an innocuous looking challenge on Lee Keegan.
As it transpired, the Footballer of the Year didn’t make it to the break as he too was black carded, though he could have no complaints about the decision. With Cillian O’Connor again off target with his long range free-taking Mayo were listing.
But a goal before half time from Man of the Match Tom Parson, which was created by O’Connor and Andy Moran, changed the course of the game.
It was nip and tuck for most of the second half. Aidan O’Shea made his first appearance this season, but after Tyrone had squandered a plethora of chances, it was the trusty left boot of Kevin McLoughlin who hit what proved to be the winning score in the second minute of injury time.
Appropriately, it was Parsons, however, who had the final say executing a perfectly timed shoulder on Sean Cavanagh before stripping him off possession as the home side threatened to secure a draw.
Cavan, meanwhile, achieved their most memorable result against Kerry since their famous 1947 All-Ireland win over the Kingdom in New York, when they savaged a draw at Breffni Park.
The point gained could ultimately keep Mattie McGleenan’s side in the top flight in 2018 while the lost point badly damages Kerry’s chance of appearing in their second consecutive League decider.
Kerry led by two points (0-6; 0-4) at the break but a goal in the third quarter from Cavan’s Dara McVeety changed the rhythm of the contest.
Still, three points on the spin from Paul Murphy, Jonathan Lyne and Bryan Sheehan (free) turned a one point deficit into a two point lead in the 32nd minute which seemed to be decisive.
But Kerry’s inability to see out games surfaced again. Points from Conor Moynagh, and a converted free in the second of the four minutes of injury time from Seanie Johnston, secured a famous draw for the Breffni Blues.
Even though Donegal beat Monaghan in last year’s Ulster semi-final after a replay, overall, they have a poor record against the Farney County.
Leading by three points in injury time at home, they seemed set for back to back wins. But it was not to be – they conceded a 71st minute penalty which Conor McManus converted to earn the visitors a share of the spoils.
All this means that Donegal, Monaghan, Tyrone, Kerry, Mayo and Dublin are still in the running to be in the League final. Mayo, though, will be more concerned about relegation.
They need to at least draw with Donegal at home to secure their place in the top flight. But if Donegal win, they will almost certainly be in the final – as they have a better scoring difference than Monaghan – who face Dublin in their last game - and have a point more than Tyrone who play Kerry away.
Kildare survived a huge scare at home to Clare – they won by a point- to secure a place in the top flight next season.
Ironically, they face Galway away in their last match with the Tribesmen needing a draw to make certain of promotion. Any mishaps and Meath will overtake them if they can beat Clare away from home.
Elsewhere, Louth recovered from the hammering they endured against Armagh last weekend to upset last year’s beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists Tipperary. Colin Kelly’s side are now back in second place in the Division 3 table behind Armagh and with a home game against Sligo next weekend, while Armagh host Tipperary they are back in the hunt for promotion.
Westmeath footballers are on the move again – but this time in the right direction. Following three consecutive relegations, last year’s Leinster finalists secured promoted back to Division 3 with a thumping 24 point away win over already promoted Wexford. The teams will meet again in next month’s Division 4 final.
The final round of fixtures in the all scheduled for next Sunday, April 2 are:
Division 1: Kerry v Tyrone; Mayo v Donegal; Monaghan v Dublin; Roscommon v Cavan.
Division 2: Clare v Meath; Cork v Down; Fermanagh v Derry; Galway v Kildare.
Division 3:Armagh v Tipperary; Louth v Sligo; Offaly v Laois; Antrim v Longford.
Division 4: Westmeath v London; Leitrim v Waterford; Carlow v Wexford; Limerick v Wicklow. (First named team as home venue)
Today Results -
Allianz FL Division 1
Cavan 1-10; Kerry 0-13
Mayo 1-10; Tyrone 0-12
Donegal 1-11; Monaghan 1-11
Cork 0-20; Derry 2-10
Meath 3-15; Fermanagh 0-6
Galway 3-15; Down 1-13
Kildare 0-18; Clare 1-14
Offaly 2-14; Sligo 2-10
Louth 0-16; Tipperary 0-12
Leitrim 2-16; London 0-15,
Westmeath 3-24; Wexford 0-09
Carlow 1-18; Wicklow 0-10
It was always going to take something special to separate these teams in such a tight, tactical battle in Healy Park and it was delivered, right on cue, by Mayo's Kevin McLoughlin whose 72nd minute winner broke a 15-minute deadlock without a score.