ONLY two positions need to be filled to determine the knock-out pairings in the concluding round of group games in the Bon Secours county PSFC on Sunday at 4pm.
It’s already determined that defending champions St Finbarr’s and Carbery Rangers will emerge from Group A and their meeting in Ballinscarthy will decide who tops the group.
Mallow are the surprise packets in Group B, last season’s senior A champions overcoming Ballincollig and Valley Rovers to book their spot in the play-offs even before meeting Douglas at Pairc Ui Rinn.
Unlike last season, when they couldn’t make it out of their section, centenary celebrating Nemo Rangers are leaving nothing to chance and will top Group C irrespective of the result against Clonakilty in Bandon or that between Castlehaven and Newcestown in Rossmore.
Joining those clubs in the quarter-finals are Carbery, the divisions/colleges section winners, and they await their fate late Sunday afternoon.
The best group winners gain automatic entry to the semi-finals with four in the frame, though the Barrs are favourites.
Yet, Erin’s Own’s experience in hurling-qualifying by having a better scoring difference of just one point shows how volatile it can be.
The holders are +20 followed by Mallow on +14, Nemo on +11 and Rosscarbery on +6, but all that could change.
At the other end of the spectrum, a number of clubs will be trying to avoid the relegation play-off decider.
The meeting of Ére Óg and Carrigaline in Group A in Ballygarvan will determine who props up the table, both currently pointless.
Both Douglas and Ballincollig are on one point apiece in Group B as are Newcestown at the foot of Group C and scoring difference could be a factor.
The Barrs are set to hand Steven Sherlock his first start, having been introduced against Carrigaline following minor knee surgery at the end of the inter-county season.
Group B is the most intriguing because of the many permutations with Douglas needing to inflict a first defeat on Mallow and then hoping Ballincollig can pull off a narrow win over Valleys, who are a point ahead.
A draw would do the Innishannon club even if Douglas emerged victorious on the basis of having won the head-to-head.
Douglas’s scoring difference is minus one compared to Ballincollig’s minus four after their exciting draw last time out, when Andrew Cotter nailed a last-gasp monster free.
The Haven are fancied to join Nemo from Group C, meeting Newcestown for the third successive season and aiming to extend their winning sequence.
They won by 2-12 to 1-10 last season, when Cathal Maguire with 1-1 and Michael Hurley with 0-4 top-scored.
The year before the Haven earned a 1-12 to 0-9 victory with captain Mark Collins claiming 0-6.
The dual demands of hurling and football have caught up with Newcestown, who are dogged by injury.
Meanwhile, the PIFC is set for a nail-biting climax to the group phase and calculators and rule books should be at the ready.
The three groups are practically identical with the leaders on four points and followed by the second- and third-placed teams on two points and a trio pointless propping up the tables.
Group A is fascinating with Nemo’s second string at the top, but facing Iveleary, who must win, while it’s the same for Cill na Martra against St Vincent’s.
All three could finish with four points with Nemo having a strong scoring difference of +15 compared to Iveleary’s +7 and Cill na Martra’s +6. All to play for here.
Bantry Blues top Group B and will expect to consolidate their position against struggling Na Piarsaigh while Aghada-Castletownbere has a knock-out feel to it.
The east Cork club bounced back from a five-point defeat by Bantry by scoring 4-15 against Na Piarsaigh, when Fintan Cody (2), Cian Fleming and Aaron Berry scored the goals. The fishing port club, though, managed to score 0-19 against Bantry and while still losing by a point, that was impressive shooting.