Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kerry's survival on the line as semi-finals begin to take shape

DUBLIN, Tyrone and Kildare have qualified for the Allianz League Division 1 football semi-finals, leaving only one slot to be decided in the final series of group games on Sunday week.

Cork and Mayo, who meet in the last round, are best placed to take the final slot although with only four points separating the bottom five counties, last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists could also be dragged into the relegation battle.

The relegation scrap will be particularly intense but it's looking bad for Down, who are bottom of the table with only one win and with a -19 point scoring difference.

Kerry improved their chances of avoiding relegation by beating Cork yesterday but will probably need to take at least a point off Tyrone in the last round to give themselves a chance of staying in Division 1.

Mickey Harte made it clear that while Tyrone are guaranteed a semi-final place, they won't lack in motivation when Kerry visit Omagh.

"We won't be thinking about what it (result) does to Kerry, we will only be thinking what it does to us. We want to stay with a bit of momentum," he said after Tyrone's impressive six-point win over Kildare.

Unusually, three of the top four places are decided ahead of the final round but with Dublin and Tyrone winning five of six games and Kildare taking eight points from a possible 12, it burned off the field.

It's turning into a very exciting season for Westmeath, whose remarkable consistency has steered them to promotion from Division 2 with one round remaining. They are the only unbeaten team in the entire league, having won five and drawn one of their six games to ensure promotion to the top flight.

Derry (9pts) will be promoted if they win their final game, leaving Galway and Laois (7pts each) hoping that Brian McIver's men slip up. Longford will be relegated from Division 2 and will be joined by Armagh, Wexford or Louth. Armagh are worst off of the trio (4pts) as they attempt to avoid the drop for a second successive season.

In hurling, Division 1A is incredibly close, with only two points separating the six teams after yesterday's fourth round of matches, which produced another set of extremely tight finishes.

Waterford – who showed great resolve to come from behind and surprise Tipperary at Walsh Park – now lead the way on five points with Galway bottom on three points.

Clare, Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary all have four points with one round remaining.

That means all six have a chance of making the top three – and qualifying for the league semi-finals – on Sunday when Waterford host Galway, Cork travel to Nowlan Park to take on Kilkenny, and Tipperary entertain Clare at Semple Stadium.

Irish Independent

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