The end of a football season can be called many things. The run-in, maybe. The business end. The endgame. Or squeaky-bum time to use the phrase coined by Sir Alex Ferguson. I always think of it as the time of ‘’ifs, ands and buts’’.
Take the relegation battle in the Premier Division of the 2017 SSE Airtricity League. Drogheda are gone and after the weekend Finn Harps unfortunately look odds on to be joining them, although they could still survive, in theory. In theory Limerick could still go down but this is unlikely. Most likely it will be one of St Pats, Galway or Sligo joining Harps and Drogheda in the First Division for 2018.
So lots of ifs, ands and buts there. It will be exciting to watch the final games unfold for those of us that are safe from relegation and don’t have ‘skin in the game’. Likewise for the title race. Cork could still bottle it. Monday night will either see them get over the line with a point or better when they host Derry, or prolong their agony further. If they lose to Derry, who are gunning for third place and will have to fight Shamrock Rovers to the end for it, then they will have a tough time against St Pats at Richmond Park on Friday. Pats will be taking no prisoners, not with survival at stake.
From Bray’s point of view, we are in a battle with Bohemians for fifth and sixth place. We want to win that battle. Firstly, because it’s always good to get the better of Bohs; secondly because fifth would represent progress on last year, which would be a great achievement given the challenges we have had to navigate this season.
Nothing much changed over the weekend, with Bohs only drawing with Cork and us going down to a late goal in Dundalk. We host Rovers this Friday and are away to Cork the following week. Bohemians have Dundalk away then Finn Harps at home.
At present we are two points up on Bohs with a better goal difference. Anything could happen. If Cork still haven’t won the league after Monday then Dundalk will still be trying to catch them when they host Bohemians on Friday. I’d expect Dundalk to win, in those circumstances. If that happens and Bray manage to get a point at home to Rovers on the same night then we should be safe in fifth place even if, on the last day, we lose to Cork and Bohs beat Harps [unless those last pairings produce a massive goal swing in Bohs’ favour]. More ifs, ands and buts.