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Head-to-head rule back in the firing line as final round loses its lustre

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Galway, who have an eight-point inferior scoring differential to Dublin, are in the happy position of knowing that irrespective of how they fare on Sunday, they will be in the quarter-finals.

Galway, who have an eight-point inferior scoring differential to Dublin, are in the happy position of knowing that irrespective of how they fare on Sunday, they will be in the quarter-finals.

SPORTSFILE

Galway, who have an eight-point inferior scoring differential to Dublin, are in the happy position of knowing that irrespective of how they fare on Sunday, they will be in the quarter-finals.

Galway hurlers are the big winners from the controversial head-to-head system of deciding Allianz League placings for counties on a similar number of points.

Despite being alongside Dublin on four points in Division 1A, they are guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals, whereas Ger Cunningham's squad could yet be dragged into a relegation battle.

Dublin play Galway in Parnell Park as one of the final series of games on Sunday, knowing that if they lose, they may have to play Kilkenny in a relegation play-off.

Results of head-to-head games, rather than scoring difference, were introduced to the leagues as a separating measure in 2010 and have thrown up quite a few anomalies since then.

With two rounds still to be played in football, there's no way of knowing how it will influence the tables but no fewer than four counties have been affected in the 1A hurling group.

INFERIOR

Galway, who have an eight-point inferior scoring differential to Dublin, are in the happy position of knowing that irrespective of how they fare on Sunday, they will be in the quarter-finals.

That's because they have beaten Clare and Kilkenny (both on two points), so whichever one of the latter pair reaches four points will be placed below Galway.

Dublin beat Kilkenny and lost to Clare so if they lose to Galway, their fate will be decided by what happens in Nowlan Park. If Clare beat Kilkenny, they would edge above Dublin and into the quarter-finals on the head-to-head rule, leaving Dublin facing a relegation play-off against the All-Ireland champions.

The head-to-head rule is also hitting Kilkenny, who cannot avoid a relegation play-off. If they beat Clare they will be on four points but, having lost to both Galway and Dublin, they can't move ahead of either.

Effectively, Sunday's game is no more than a box-ticking exercise for them but it could be very significant for Clare.

With Galway having already qualified for the quarter-finals, it will be interesting to see if they field their strongest side or experiment with fringe players. Morally, they are obliged to give themselves every chance of beating Dublin in order to maintain the integrity of the group.

If scoring difference were in place, it would lead to a much more interesting situation in the final round.

It would mean that teams which go into the games two points adrift of others could overtake them, a target not available under the rigid head-to-head system.

Dublin have most reason to be aggrieved since they are ahead of Galway on scoring difference, but deemed to be behind Anthony Cunningham's men because of other results.

In a six-game group, it seems unfair that such important issues are decided on individual results, rather than the overall series.

Cork, Tipperary, Galway (1A), Waterford, Wexford, Limerick and Offaly (1B)have already qualified for the quarter-finals on Sunday week, with the final place between Clare and Dublin.

Irish Independent