National Football League Division One knockout games set for Croke Park
Dublin, Tyrone and Kildare set for HQ with final semi-finalist to be decided on Sunday
Croke Park is set to stage the semi-finals of the Allianz Football League, no matter what pairings emerge from this Sunday’s final round of games.
Three of the four teams heading for semi-finals, which take place in Division One only, are already known: Dublin, Tyrone and Kildare. They can, in theory, be joined by Cork, Mayo, Donegal or Kerry, with only Down definitely out of contention, and most likely destined for relegation unless a series of unlikely results fall their way.
The Division One semi-finals are set for Sunday week, April 14th, with the top-placed team playing fourth place, and second-placed team playing the third-placed team. The final will then take place on April 28th, again in Croke Park, along with the straight finals in division two, three and four.
Indeed all four divisions still have plenty left undecided going into Sunday’s final round of games – all of which have a simultaneous 3pm start, giving scoring difference may well be a deciding factor. Like the hurling league last Sunday, if two teams end up level on points then their head-to-head is what splits them. If three or more teams are level, it comes down to scoring difference.
The pitch at headquarters is currently looking a little worse for wear, not helped by the recent cold spell which has led to a lack of natural growth. Yet GAA president Liam O’Neill is adamant he would rather see Croke Park being used than see it in pristine condition.
“A pitch is for playing on,” he said yesterday, “and we have played more games in Croke Park this spring than usual. We could have that pitch in pristine condition by resting it from the start of the year until the start of the championship. But we’ve taken the decision to play the club finals there, including junior and intermediate. Over a fortnight there we had a long run of games, and the pitch did suffer, no doubt about that.
“But we also have a fantastic team working on it, and it will be right come the championship. And over the last four years we’ve had over 20,000 children between the ages of eight and 12 have got the opportunity to play on the pitch. Work still goes on around them, the growing lights on the field, etc. And that’s the way it should be.”
Overall league attendances, even before the final round, have held up strongly, the one concern being the drop off in attendances at the Dublin Spring Series in Croke Park, with only 10,825 showing up for the last game against Down. “It is a balance all the time, between promotion and attendance, and sometimes that balance gets a little off skew,” said O’Neill. “But the pitch is always available, and it’s up to Dublin to come back to us again to decide whether or not they want to continue with it for another year.”
There will be plenty to attract crowds this Sunday: Donegal host Dublin in Ballybofey needing a win to keep them in the hunt. For Cork, a draw with Mayo would be enough for to clinch that fourth semi-final spot. In Division Two, the question of who will join Westmeath in promotion appears straightforward, with Derry – who play Westmeath – needing a point to be certain but will go up anyway if Galway fail to beat Armagh.
Meath have defied the odds to put themselves back in contention for promotion from Division Three. They face leaders Fermanagh, where a win would see them promoted, most likely along with Monaghan.
THIS WEEK’S FIXTURES
Leinster Under-21 FC final: Kildare v Longford, O’Moore Park, 7.30.
Ulster Under-21 FC semi-finals: Donegal v Derry, Healy Park, 8.0; Cavan v Down, Athletic Grounds, 8.0
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B final: Limerick v Dublin, Semple Stadium, 7.0.
Connacht Under-21 FC final: Roscommon v Galway, Dr Hyde Park, 6.0.
All-Ireland Colleges SH A final: Dungarvan Colleges v Kilkenny CBS, Thurles 3.15.
All-Ireland Vocational Schools SH A championship final: St Brigid's Loughrea v St Fergal's College Rathdowney, Thurles, 1.30.
Allianz Football League
Division 1: Down v Kildare, Páirc Esler, 3.0; Cork v Mayo, Páirc Uí Rinn, 3.0; Tyrone v Kerry, Healy Park, 3.0; Donegal v Dublin, Ballybofey, 3.0.
Division 2: Derry v Westmeath, Celtic Park, 3.0; Louth v Longford, Drogheda, 3.0; Wexford v Laois, Wexford Park, 3.0; Armagh v Galway, Athletic Grounds, 3.0
Division 3: Monaghan v Antrim, Clones, 3.0; Sligo v Wicklow, Markievicz Park, 3.0; Meath v Fermanagh, Páirc Tailteann, 3.0; Cavan v Roscommon, Breffni Park, 3.0.
Division 4: Leitrim v London, Carrick-on-Shannon, 3.0; Clare v Limerick, Ennis, 3.0; Carlow v Waterford, Dr Cullen Park, 3.0, Offaly v Tipperary, O'Connor Park, 3.0