The final day of the Joe McDonagh Cup looks set to be a thriller, with all bar top team Laois still uncertain about how their campaign will pan out.
Laois have three wins from three, sit at the top of the ladder and are already assured of a place in the final - and the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final spot that goes with it.
Antrim aren’t playing this weekend, but if Laois were to hammer Westmeath by 20+ points then they could reach the final too.
If Westmeath get a draw or a win over the O’Moore County they will be in the final. Kerry have a far outside chance of making the decider, but that would require a 21-point win over Offaly coupled with a similarly big Laois win.
And while the Kingdom can still make the final, they can also be relegated. A draw would keep them safe, but an Offaly win would see the Faithful County stay up having pulled off an improbable escape courtesy of a better head-to-head record.
"It’s a big game; big for both teams because neither of us wants to be relegated," said Kerry manager Fintan O’Connor speaking to RTÉ Sport ahead of Saturday’s clash at Austin Stack Park, Tralee.
"We were hoping last week that we might beat Laois and be looking at trying to get into the final, but that’s not the case now and this is essentially a relegation play-off.
"None of us wants to be in the Christy Ring Cup and that’s not disrespect because it’s a great competition, but there is a gulf in class there. It’s the same as there’s a gulf in class between the Joe McDonagh and Liam MacCarthy."
O’Connor is a much-travelled hurling man; having been born and bred in Kildare, he works in Waterford, is living and settled in Tipperary and is coaching in Kerry.
He knows all about the games strongholds and outposts and his preference would be a tweak in the structures to allow a better chance of progression for teams in the second tier Joe McDonagh Cup.
He’d like to see six teams each in Leinster and Munster, six teams in the McDonagh and one-up, one-down promotion and relegation between the tiers, giving teams a chance to consolidate at the top level.
Carlow went up as Joe McDonagh champions last year and are coming straight back down. This pattern is likely to be repeated annually while Kerry’s route to promotion is more complicated and would require a play-off win over the bottom team in Munster after winning the McDonagh.
For now though he is concentrating on an Offaly side who have lost three-from-three, but can still save themselves following a dismal season.
"Offaly gave Laois their best game in the Joe McDonagh, they beat Carlow in the league and Carlow are a serious outfit. They won’t be happy with the way they are going and to us they are a big team and a good team," said O’Connor.
"They have household names like Joe Bergin, Shane Dooley and Oisín Kelly. Joachim Kelly is in there as coach and he has Brian Carroll with him and that’s a serious shot in the arm."
Kerry could be without Shane Conway, who tweaked a hamstring in the defeat to Laois last weekend.
Follow the final matches in the Joe McDonagh Cup via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app, or listen to updates on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.