Four points may not be enough for Cork to make promotion play-off

Scoring difference could play a role in determining the final shape of Division 2 South on Sunday
Four points may not be enough for Cork to make promotion play-off

Cork's Ruairi Deane, who was one of the outstanding players in Portlaoise, fist pumps Sean O'Flynn of Laois at the end of the game last Saturday evening.

THE popular belief was that four points from the three games would be enough to send teams through to the promotion play-offs.

However, it may not be the case in Cork’s division 2 south group because there is a possibility that they could finish level on that number along with leaders Clare and Kildare.

For that to happen Ronan McCarthy’s side must, first of all, overcome Clare at Cusack Park, Ennis, on Sunday at 1.45pm.

And given the way the Banner are playing at the moment and their recent good record against the Rebels, this is going to be another major test of Cork’s calibre.

The likelihood of Kildare also ending with four points is quite strong because they face bottom side Laois in Portlaoise and would expect to win.

If all three have the same number of points at the conclusion then scoring difference comes into play and that could add further intrigue in determining who plays in the promotion games or who are left to try and retain their status for another 12 months.

Clare’s scoring difference at the moment is +10 with Cork on +4 and Kildare on +1 though the tables have Kildare ahead of Cork because of winning the head-to-head encounter.

But, there is an outside chance of the trio also having the same scoring difference come Sunday afternoon.

For example, should Cork win by three points then it would leave themselves and Clare level on four points with the same +7 scoring difference.

A six-point triumph for Jack O’Connor’s Kildare at O’Moore Park would result in the same for the Lillywhites, who would also have four points and a +7 scoring difference.

What happens then? It can’t come down to head-to-head because there are three teams in the equation, so presumably the counties with the greatest scoring totals from the three games will progress.

It does, though, make for one of those last-game scenarios similar to what unfolded in soccer at the weekend when Leicester City shot themselves in the foot after Chelsea did their best not to make the top four in the Premier League.

There was also great drama in Spain and France with unlikely sides Atletico Madrid and Lille upstaging Real and Paris St Germain to be crowned national champions.

It’s all poised for an exciting conclusion to the shortened league programme this season, finalising who faces who in the cross-over games from teams in division 2 north.

That is already done and dusted, however, because both Mayo and Meath who were relegated from division 1 last season, are guaranteed promotion games after winning their games against Westmeath and Down.

It makes the final couple of games on Sunday dead-rubbers in effect, but it affords managers the chance to rest players and try others in their squads.

McCarthy has no such luxury for Cork, though, because winning promotion to the top tier remains one of the main priorities in 2021.

By my dodgy calculations Cork have used 26 players already in the two games and McCarthy admitted some players were thrown into the important 2-12 to 0-10 win over Laois a tad undercooked.

From the 21 players used in the loss to Kildare, McCarthy added Luke Connolly from the start in Portlaoise and introduced Cian Kiely, Shane Forde, Mark Collins and Damien Gore off the bench.

One of the main differences from the two displays was Cork’s greater physical presence around the opposition goal, reflected in points coming from ‘marks’.

The first was classical Ciaran Sheehan, who showed his Aussie Rules aerial ability after only five minutes, when brilliantly fielding Ian Maguire’s long-range delivery and duly converting for Cork’s opening point.

The other came late on, Collins wisely calling for the ‘mark’ and coolly slotting over his second point.

This was followed shortly by Forde’s score to bring the curtain down on a satisfactory evening in the midlands.

The only players not to taste action to-date from the 26-strong match-day panels are reserve keeper Anthony Casey, corner-backs Sam Ryan and Paul Ring, though Ryan was replaced by Mark Cronin, who is also unused, in a late change against Laois.

Brian Harnett’s two-match ban from the Kildare game ends after the Clare encounter.

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