THE group stages of this year's Westmeath SFC reach decision time this weekend, with several sides vying to confirm a place in the knockout phase.
Locally, most eyes will be on the progress of Athlone (in Division B), and 2008 winners Castledaly in Division A.
Both sides still have plenty of work to do if they're to join the already qualified Garrycastle and Maryland in the knockout stages.
To make this weekend's action even more interesting, Garrycastle and Maryland still need to achieve good results to confirm top spot in either section (thus ensuring straight passage to the semi-finals).
In Division A, reigning champions Garrycastle, with seven points to date, will seal top place with victory over Bunbrosna (Saturday, Moate, 7pm), where anything but maximum points for Paul Clancy's side would come as a massive surprise.
Garrycastle have been far from at full-strength during this year's championship, but the overall strength and quality of their panel has still proved too much for most opponents (with only Tyrrellspass managing to hold them to a draw). While Bunbrosna have guaranteed senior football again next year (thanks to a narrow win over Killucan earlier in proceedings), they are not expected to pose any difficulty to this year's beaten All-Ireland finalists.
Elsewhere, Tyrrellspass should beat Killucan to reach at least the quarter-finals, but most attention in Division A will be afforded to the crunch meeting of Castledaly and Coralstown-Kinnegad at Cusack Park on Sunday (5.30pm).
Coralstown-Kinnegad have won three out of four games, leaving them on six points, while Derek Heavin's Castledaly have four points.
Victory for Castledaly will ensure they leapfrog Coralstown-Kinnegad (courtesy of a better head-to-head record). Draws in the Castledaly/Coralstown-Kinnegad and Tyrrellspass/Killucan matches would mean the league table remains the same, and Castledaly would be eliminated.
If Castledaly, Coralstown-Kinnegad and Tyrrellspass all finish on six points (this being possible if Castledaly win and Tyrrellspass only draw), scoring difference comes into play.
At the bottom of the group, Killucan have already been confirmed as finishing last, and will thus contest this year's relegation play-off.
Athlone in mouthwatering decider
Over in an equally fascinating Division B, Maryland's four straight wins (including an impressive win against Mullingar Shamrocks last weekend) puts them in pole position to finish top and go forth to the semi-finals. Standing in their way are St Loman's, with these two protagonists meeting at Cusack Park on Saturday (7pm). A draw would suffice for Finbar Egan's charges to proceed to the last four, as Loman's are currently two points adrift of the table-toppers.
St Malachy's (losers against Athlone last weekend) must get a result against The Downs to avoid a relegation play-off, and also to condemn their opponents to such a fate. But the really intriguing action from Division B this weekend sees Athlone and Mullingar Shamrocks square-up in the battle for that third and final qualification spot. Under Tom Coffey, Athlone's championship form has picked-up greatly this year, and a draw or win for the Shannonsiders against Shamrocks would see them safely into the quarter-finals.
A late rally against St Malachy's last Sunday - which led to an eventual three-point win - has kept Athlone's hopes alive, following a five-point defeat to Maryland in their previous outing.
Athlone's ambitions are further boosted by a suspension to Shamrocks' attacker Lorcan Smyth (sent-off in last weekend's loss to Maryland), while the Mullingar outfit have had to cope this season without the services of injured duo Darragh Daly and Kieran Gavin.