GAA Football

Five promotions and five relegations yet to be decided in Football League

Who'll finish higher?: Donegal's Michael Murphy and Aidan Forker of Armagh met in the McKenna Cup and will meet in Division One this weekend, before an Ulster SFC quarter-final in May.
Picture Margaret McLaughlin

BEYOND death and taxes, there are only three certainties in the Allianz Football League: Kerry will top Division One, Galway are promoted from Division Two, and Down have been demoted to Division Three.

Everything else is up for grabs, down for decision.

There are five promotions and five relegations to decide, with the chance of five teams finishing on five points in Division One – or five finishing on seven points, while three top flight teams can still reach the final or get relegated.

Only seven counties have absolutely nothing to play for: Kerry, Down, those in the bottom half of Division Four, plus Meath in Division Two. There's something riding on every match apart from Carlow v Wexford, although admittedly Down-Clare requires some suspension of disbelief for it to matter.


Division One

Mayo, Armagh, Kildare, Donegal, and even Tyrone can all still qualify for the Division One Final, although those last two teams would need particularly big victories in order to reach second spot on scoring difference.

Donegal, who are at home to the Orchardmen, are currently on minus nine. Tyrone are on minus 12 and travel to the Kingdom. Armagh have the advantage in that regard, plus 11, with Mayo on plus six and Kildare on plus one.

If only two teams finish level on points then head-to-head is the deciding factor. Mayo beat Armagh who beat Kildare; the Lilywhites are away to Mayo (albeit in Carrick-on-Shannon), so working that factor out should be easy come Sunday evening, if required.

Armagh will have to better Mayo's result in order to move above them.

Donegal can't qualify via head-to-head, as either Mayo would have more points than them or four teams would be on seven points – themselves, Mayo, Armagh, and Kildare, so it would come down to scoring difference.

Similarly, if Tyrone get onto seven points then at least one other county would have more, or else Mayo, Armagh, Kildare, and Donegal would also be on that tally.

The lowest scoring difference possible would still leave Kildare or Mayo on plus four, so Donegal would require a 14-point win over Armagh. Tyrone would need to win by 17 in Killarney…

So avoiding the drop is really what Donegal and Tyrone have to worry about – along with Dublin, Monaghan, and Kildare.

Kildare, Donegal, and Tyrone all know that a victory will save them, putting them on seven points, clear of the six points that either Monaghan or Dublin can reach.

Even a draw might be enough for any or all of that trio, although then head-to-head might come into play if there's a winner in Clones, as there would be teams tied on six points. With two teams level, it goes to head-to-head; more than that and scoring difference will decide.

Monaghan must not lose to the Dubs. A draw is hardly likely to be enough, although mathematically it could contribute to their survival – and that of the Dubs.

Donegal or Tyrone would also have to lose, the former by at least six points, the latter by three points or more, and then they would be below both Dublin and Monaghan on scoring difference. Head-to-head would not apply as at least three teams would be on five points.

Kildare could even come into that mix, if they were to be thrashed by 14 points or more by Mayo.

Kildare have beaten both Dublin and Monaghan, but lost to Tyrone and Donegal. Donegal lost to Dublin and Monaghan too, but also beat Tyrone. Tyrone drew with Monaghan (so scoring difference would decide if those two end up tied) and lost to Dublin.

It will be tight.


Division Two

The position at the top of Division Two is fairly clear – at least at first glance.

If Roscommon win at home to Galway, they will join their neighbours in the final and in the top flight next year. Even if they draw that might be enough for promotion as Derry would still need to win by at least six points away to Meath to overturn the scoring difference advantage the Rossies currently hold (plus 31 compared to plus 26 for the Oak Leafers). Roscommon and Derry drew so head-to-head won't come into it.

Roscommon could lose and still go up if Derry don't beat the Royals; a draw is not enough for Rory Gallagher's side.

Meath have nothing to play for, but Clare, who travel to already relegated Down have a teeny-weeny risk of relegation.

The crunch clash is between Offaly and Cork in Tullamore The winner will stay up, but a draw would be enough for the visiting Rebels as they have a superior scoring difference.

Clare could conceivably end up in a three-way tie on four points, if Offaly and Cork were to draw, but the Bannermen would only be at risk if they were thrashed in Newry; their scoring difference of minus seven is far better than Cork (-27) or Offaly (-34), so Clare would need to be beaten by 28 points.


Division Three

Louth will go up as long as they don't lose away to struggling Wicklow. Mickey Harte's men would be on 10 points if they draw, and only Limerick can reach that mark – by winning at home to Fermanagh – but the wee county won the round three meeting in the Gaelic Grounds so have that head-to-head advantage.

Victory in the Gaelic Grounds would secure promotion for the Treatymen. Fermanagh could take second spot - but they'd need to win by at least 18 points and hope that there's a draw between Antrim and Westmeath.

The Saffrons' home game against Westmeath has plenty riding on it. The teams are both on seven points, so the visitors could move above Limerick if the latter don't win; Antrim would need Limerick to lose to go above them, unless Louth also are defeated.

If Louth were to move into double figures and Limerick and either Antrim or Westmeath were tied on nine points then head-to-head would decide. Limerick won away to Antrim but then lost at home to Westmeath.

Only three teams are at risk of relegation and two of them meet in O'Moore Park, Laois and Longford. The hosts know that avoiding defeat will be sufficient to survive, while Longford simply have to win and hope that Wicklow don't do likewise and leave it as a three-way tie on five points.

In that scenario Longford and Wicklow would still probably go down on scoring difference, unless Longford overturn a 25-point deficit on Laois, meaning they'd have to win by at least 13 points. Wicklow currently have the worst scoring difference, minus 27, so not only must they beat Louth, they probably have to do so by a big margin. Laois have any potential head-to-head advantage, having won in Aughrim in round five.


Division Four

Cavan are assured of an immediate return to Division Three, but will go up as long as they avoid defeat at home to whipping boys Waterford.

Even if the Breffnimen somehow lose, for what would be the Deise's first League win of this season, they might still secure promotion. That could come via a better head-to-head record against either Sligo or Leitrim, who meet in Markievicz Park, with both currently having eight points – but only if Tipperary don't also end up on 10 points by drawing at home to London.

In that scenario, the winners of Sligo-Leitrim would definitely go up on scoring difference, while Cavan would probably be above Tipp in that regard, unless Cavan were to lose by six points or more at home to Waterford.

In the theoretical assumption that Cavan will go up, Tipp know they will also be promoted if they beat the Exiles.

If Cavan move onto 11 or 12 points, and Tipp only draw, then they might go into a head-to-head battle with Sligo or Leitrim. Tipperary beat Sligo, but lost to Leitrim.

If Tipp lose and Sligo and Leitrim draw, there would be a three-way tie on nine points; in that scenario, Sligo would go up along with Cavan as the Yeats County men would have the best scoring difference.

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