Thursday 22 February 2018

Relegation battles to take centre stage in final round of league

Rochford: Battle for survival. Photo: Sportsfile
Rochford: Battle for survival. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Here is how the weekend Allianz National Football League permutations might play out:

Division One

Dublin have qualified for a league semi-final and are virtually certain to be joined by Kerry and Roscommon who have big score differences that cushion them from what defeat might bring. Roscommon would have to lose very heavily to Dublin to be caught by Cork.

The next four teams - Donegal, Cork, Mayo and Monaghan - can all qualify or be relegated.

Mayo and Monaghan have the same points and same score difference (-12). In the expectation that Mayo should beat Down by more than what Monaghan might beat Donegal by, Stephen Rochford's men should survive.

For Monaghan to avoid the drop they must beat Donegal and hope that Kerry do them a favour against Cork in Tralee. In that scenario, Cork would go down on score difference in a four-way tie.

If Cork draw or win Monaghan would need to win by 13 points or more to leap-frog Donegal, a most unlikely scenario.

A Cork win and Donegal defeat will see Cork join Dublin, Kerry and Roscommon in the semi-finals. If both win, Donegal's score difference is far superior (+24 between them).

Division Two

At the top it's a straight-forward head-to-head between Cavan and Galway who meet on Sunday. Cavan have the luxury of being able to draw and still go up.

Relegation is stacked with so many permutations, especially in a division where 25 per cent of the games have ended level.

For Laois to survive they must beat Meath at home and hope that Armagh lose to Derry in the Athletic Grounds. If Laois win, Armagh draw and Fermanagh beat Tyrone, Laois would survive on the head to head with Armagh (both then on five points).

If Laois and Armagh win and Fermanagh lose, Laois would go down with Meath on their head- to-head (both five points) with Fermanagh.

Meath's survival almost solely depends on victory in Portlaoise. The only other mathematical possibility that could see them drop, if they beat Laois, would be a three-way tie on six points with Derry and Armagh. In that case a one-point Meath win would take their score difference to -11, a 12-point Armagh win would take their score difference to -10 and bring Derry, currently +2, to -10 too. A Fermanagh win over Tyrone would take them to seven points, clear of that congestion.

Armagh can beat Derry and still go down if Meath beat Laois and Fermanagh beat or draw with Tyrone. That creates a three or four-way tie that then depends on score difference, weakening Armagh's case.

If Meath beat Laois, Fermanagh lose to Tyrone and Armagh beat Derry, Fermanagh join Laois in Division Three.

The maths still doesn't secure Derry but it would take a 13-point defeat to Armagh to trouble them.

Division Three

Kildare bounce back up, Clare have their fate in their own hands. Even if they lose to Kildare on Sunday, a three-way tie on eight points, the most likely outcome, suits them because of their +31 score difference, +38 ahead of Longford and Offaly on six points. But they need to avoid a head-to-head with either Offaly or Tipperary who have beaten them.

At the other end Limerick are relegated while Westmeath, on five points, really must beat Longford to avoid a similar fate. A draw could spare them if there was a three-way tie on six points as their score difference +3, is quite strong.

Division Four

Antrim and Louth have secured Division Three status as Louth, on eight points, have head-to-head advantage on Wexford (six points) even if they lose to Antrim and Wexford beat Carlow.

Irish Independent

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