By John Harrington
The final round of group matches in the Tailteann Cup takes place this weekend and will determine which 11 teams progress to the knock-out rounds where they will be joined by New York.
The Big Apple’s presence in the preliminary quarter-finals means the 11 teams progressing will be the first and second placed teams in each of the four groups, as well as the three 'best placed' third-placed teams.
Where teams finish on the same amount of points in their group after this weekend’s Round 3 matches, they will be ranked by the following criteria in this order.
(i) Where two teams only are involved – the outcome of the meeting of the two teams in the group
(ii) Score difference – subtracting the total scores against from the total scores for
(iii) highest total score for
(iv) highest total goals for
(v) A play-off
The four table-toppers will proceed directly to the quarter-finals, while the second-placed teams have a home match against the three ‘best placed’ third-placed teams and New York.
The three ‘best placed’ third-placed teams across the four groups shall be determined using the following criteria.
(i) Total Number of Points
(ii) Score difference – subtracting the total Scores against from the Scores for
(iii) Highest Total Score For
(iv) Highest Total Goals For
(v) Lowest Total Goals Against
(vi) A Play-Off Exception: In relation to means (ii) to (v) above, if the accumulated scores of a team, so involved, are affected by a disqualification, loss of game on a proven objection, retirement or walkover, the tie shall be decided by a Play-Off.
The preliminary quarter-finals will take place on the weekend of June 10/11. The draw for them takes place on Monday, and repeat pairings from the group stages are not allowed.
The quarter-finals take place on June 17/18 with the four group winners having home advantage against the preliminary quarter-final winners, and once again the draw is subject to avoidance of repeat pairings from the group stages.
The semi-finals take place on June 25 and subject to avoidance of repeat pairings if possible, with the final then in Croke Park on July 15.
There’s a lot to play for this weekend then, and here’s how the various permutations are looking in each of the four groups.
Saturday, June 3
Cavan v Offaly, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 3pm
Laois v London, Parnell Park, 3pm
The clash of Cavan (4 points) and Offaly (3 points) on Saturday will determine which of the two teams tops the group and progresses directly to a home quarter-final. A draw would suffice for Cavan to take top spot but Offaly need the win.
The meeting of Laois and London will most likely decide who finishes in third. Laois (1 point), still have a chance to finish second but would need a big win here and for Cavan to defeat Offaly by a decent margin too if they’re to make up the 18 point scoring difference they trail Offaly by.
Laois and Offaly drew in round two, so if they both finish on three points they would be split by scoring difference rather than the head to head rule.
Saturday, June 3
Meath v Down, Parnell Park, 1pm (GAAGO)
Tipperary v Waterford, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 1pm
Down and Meath currently top Group 2 with two wins from two apiece, so their clash on Saturday will decide who tops the table and progresses to a home quarter-final. A draw would suffice for Down as they have a superior scoring difference to Meath.
Waterford and Tipperary are both pointless so the best they can hope for is to finish third and their match will decide who takes that spot.
A draw would be sufficient for Waterford to finish third as they have a superior scoring difference than Tipperary, but with only three out of four third place finishers progressing to the preliminary quarter-finals a win for either team is a must.
And because their scoring difference is currently considerably worse than any of the other teams that could potentially finish third in their group, either Tipperary or Waterford will need to win this match by a big margin and hope other results go their way too in order to avoid missing out on the preliminary quarter-finals because they’re the lowest ranked third-placed team.
Sunday, June 4
Limerick v Wicklow, Laois Hire O'Moore Park, 1pm
Longford v Carlow, Laois Hire O'Moore Park, 3pm
Limerick on four points are already assured of top-spot in Group 3 and a home quarter-final. Whoever wins between Longford and Carlow can also finish on four points, but because Limerick have already beaten both of those teams they’d finish above them on the head to head rule.
A Wicklow team with no points on the board are only playing for pride this Sunday. Were they to beat Limerick and finish on two points with either Longford or Carlow they’d finish below them in the table on the head to head rule because they’ve already been beaten by both sides.
So it’s Limerick top, Wicklow bottom, and Longford and Carlow effectively playing on Sunday for a home quarter-final. A draw would suffice for Longford as they have a superior scoring difference to Carlow.
Sunday, June 4
Wexford v Leitrim, Parnell Park, 3pm
Fermanagh v Antrim, Box-It Athletic Grounds, 3pm
The meeting of Antrim (4 points) and Fermanagh (3 points) will decide which of the two teams tops the group and progresses directly to a home quarter-final.
Wexford (1 point) still have a slight chance of finishing second and claiming a home preliminary quarter-final if they beat Leitrim and Antrim beat Fermanagh.
Those two results would see Fermanagh and Wexford finishing on three points. Because they drew in Round 1, they’d be separated by scoring difference rather than the head to head rule. Fermanagh currently enjoy a 16-point superior difference than Wexford, so they’re odds on to finish second even if they lose to Antrim.
Leitrim with no points after two matches still have a chance of finishing third and advancing to an away preliminary quarter-final if they beat Wexford, but they’d still possibly need results in other groups to go their way to ensure they’re one of the three best third-place finishers.