AFTER the fun and games in trying to tease out the permutations across the various Cork hurling championship grades last weekend, we get to do it all again this Saturday and Sunday as the group stages of the senior and intermediate football championships are played to their denouements.
While there are five grades in the hurling with the inclusion of the lower intermediate championship, there are ‘only’ four in the football, though the lowest of these, the intermediate A, has 16 teams compared to 12 in all of the others.
We will look at the state of play in that grade, and the premier intermediate, later in the week but for now we will focus on the top two tiers, the premier senior and senior A championships.
PREMIER SFC (all 2pm Sunday)
GROUP A: St Finbarr’s lead the way after beating both Ballincollig and Carrigaline but, while they have almost qualified, there is a very slim chance that they could be excluded from the knockout stages.
The Barrs take on Clonakilty in Coachford, with a win or a draw enough to secure top spot. Even if Clon were to win, and Ballincollig beat Carrigaline to make it a three-way tie on four points, the Barrs have a far superior scoring-difference at the moment, 19 compared to four for Ballincollig and minus-three for Clon.
A Ballincollig win against Carrigaline in Páirc Uí Rinn would almost certainly send them through, but a Carrigaline victory coupled with a Barrs win would leave Ballincollig, Clon and Carrigaline all on two points.
GROUP B: Castlehaven can’t be usurped at the top as, even if they lose to Ilen Rovers in Ballydehob, they have beaten both of the sides that could join them on four points, Carbery Rangers and Newcestown.
The Haven lag behind the other two group leaders, St Finbarr’s and Nemo Rangers, in terms of scoring-difference, so they will have an incentive to try to win big to give themselves a chance of picking up the one automatic semi-final spot. Equally, though, Ilen will be occupied in trying to avoid the relegation play-off.
The other game, between Carbery Rangers and Newcestown in Ballinascarthy, is essentially a knockout game for a place in the quarter-finals. Should it end in a draw, however, Newcestown would advance as they have the better scoring-difference.
GROUP C: Nemo Rangers are in the same situation as their city rivals St Finbarr’s – on the verge of qualification but just needing to rubber-stamp it.
The reigning champions take on neighbours Douglas in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and even a defeat would be unlikely to eliminate them, so healthy is their scoring difference compared to Douglas and Valley Rovers.
Douglas, who have a win and a loss, need to win and to stay ahead of Valleys on scoring difference – currently the city side’s is plus-two and the Innishannon club, who beat Douglas three weeks ago, are on minus-two ahead of their clash with Bishopstown in Ballinora.
A Valleys win will send them through as long as Douglas don’t win and, while a Bishopstown victory would have them level on points with Valleys – and Douglas if Nemo win – their scoring-difference would need a massive overhaul to send them through in second place.
GROUP A: A rare cut-and-dried group in that O’Donovan Rossa and St Michael’s are both assured of qualification ahead of their meeting in Enniskeane. With two wins each, all that is left to be decided is first and second placings, with the winners almost certain of a semi-final spot due to the strong scoring-differences.
The meeting of St Nicholas and Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh in Carrigadrohid will be about avoiding fourth place and a potential relegation play-off.
GROUP B: Kiskeam are top on four points ahead of their meeting in Glantane with Éire Óg, who are on two, while Mallow (two) face Bantry Blues (zero) in Macroom. If Kiskeam win or draw, they are guaranteed to finish top, but wins for Éire Óg and Mallow would mean three teams on four points, with scoring-difference the decider. Similarly, if Kiskeam and Bantry win, there would be a three-way tie for second.
GROUP C: Bandon, who drew with Dohenys last time out, are top on three, ahead of Fermoy and Clyda Rovers (two each), with Dohenys on one.
Bandon face Fermoy in Glanmire with the winners guaranteed to progress, while a draw could see both advance if Clyda Rovers fail to beat Dohenys. On the other hand, Clyda will go through if they win.
A victory for Dohenys will be enough if Bandon also win, but wins for Dohenys and Fermoy would need to be of sufficient size so as for the Dunmanway side to edge Bandon out scoring-difference.