EVEN in defeat, late scores can still impact on the final standings as was proved last weekend in the closing round of group games in the Bon Secours county football championships.
This was particularly true in the case of the relegation issues in the premier senior and intermediate championships, where a couple of clubs owe certain individuals quite a deal of gratitude.
Take Ballydesmond as a case in point.
Former Cork star Donncha O’Connor has soldiered in many a campaign for the Duhallow club and was central once more.
Little did he or anyone else realise that when he tucked away a late penalty for a crucial goal in the 0-15 to 1-11 defeat by neighbours Rockchapel that it would be enough to avoid getting dragged into the dreaded relegation play-off.
Ballydesmond finished bottom of their group without a point, the same as Mayfield and Glanmire in the other sections, leaving scoring difference to determine the teams with the two worst records.
Before play, Ballydesmond looked in big trouble on minus 13 compared to Glanmire’s minus 11 and Mayfield’s minus eight.
But, O’Connor’s penalty meant his side’s difference only worsened by a point, minus 14, which was critical because both Glanmire and Mayfield lost by eight, finishing on minus 19 and minus 16 respectively.
The city club went under to a crack Mitchelstown side, one of the fancies for the title along with Kilshannig, going down by 0-17 to 1-3, while nearby Glanmire lost to Aghabullogue by 2-10 to 1-5.
It all resulted in Ballydesmond avoiding the extra game and forcing Glanmire and Mayfield to slog it out to determine who retains their status next season and who reverts to junior ranks.
That game has been pencilled in for Saturday week in Blarney at 4pm in what is sure to be a tension-filled encounter with so much at stake.
The importance of late frees also featured prominently in the top tier, where Ilen Rovers were always destined to fill one of the two relegation play-off places on the basis of a heavy 3-17 to 1-7 defeat to Newcestown and a lesser loss, 0-14 to 0-8, to Carbery Rangers.
A third defeat by Castlehaven only rubberstamped their position.
But, the identity of their opponents remained in doubt right to the final whistle in the games featuring Carrigaline and Bishopstown.
Again scoring difference had to be used to separate the three with Ilen conceding far too many scores for their own good.
But, both Carrigaline and Bishopstown couldn’t even be separated as the pair finished on minus 23 each, which resulted in the next criterion, the team who scored more, being introduced.
Carrigaline’s 1-29 (32) edged the Town’s 2-23 (29) to breathe a huge sigh of relief, thanks in the main to a late free from Eanna Desmond in the 2-9 to 0-12 defeat by Ballincollig.
It was tough on Bishopstown, who pushed Valley Rovers all way the before suffering a third defeat, 0-12 to 1-8, with a late Fiacha Lynch free condemning them to the play-off, which is scheduled for Sunday week in Clonakilty at 2pm.
Town are also in the hurling relegation play-off against Ballyhea in Mallow on Sunday at the same time, again suffering three defeats in games in which they were very competitive until fading.
It’s a difficult situation for the city club, but at least their destiny is firmly in their own hands.
Bon Secours PIFC quarter-finals: Nemo Rangers v Knocknagree, Donoughmore; Kanturk v Aghada, Ovens.
Relegation play-off: Gabriel Rangers v Na Piarsaigh, Ballinacarriga. All 2pm.
Bon Secours SAFC relegation play-off: St Nick’s v Bantry Blues, Enniskeane.
Bon Secours IFC quarter-finals: Kilshannig v Glanworth, Killavullen; Millstreet v Aghabullogue, Ballyvourney; Mitchelstown v Kinsale, Carrigtwohill; Rockchapel v Ballinora, Mallow. All 4pm.
Relegation play-off: Glanmire v Mayfield, Blarney. 4pm.
Bon Secours PSFC quarter-finals: Nemo Rangers v Ballincollig, Pairc Ui Rinn, 2pm; St Finbarr’s v Newcestown, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 4pm; Valley Rovers v Duhallow, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7pm.
Relegation play-off: Bishopstown v Ilen Rovers, Clonakilty, 2pm.
SAFC quarter-finals: St Michael’s v Éire Óg, Ballyanly, 2pm; Mallow v Bandon, Coachford, 4pm.