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Split decision that adds spice into the title mix

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Collision course: Cliftonville striker Diarmuid O'Carroll celebrates one of his two goals against Linfield in the 4-2 away win back in August

Collision course: Cliftonville striker Diarmuid O'Carroll celebrates one of his two goals against Linfield in the 4-2 away win back in August

Collision course: Cliftonville striker Diarmuid O'Carroll celebrates one of his two goals against Linfield in the 4-2 away win back in August

To split or not to split – that is the question. But this isn't a husband and wife tale. I'm not saying there was a mood of pessimism at one wedding I attended but the bride and groom were both selling tickets for their next wedding!

I'm only joking... they were giving the tickets away – not selling them!

The split I am referring to is the one that hits the Danske Bank Premiership this month.

The league is divided into two with the top six and bottom six taking on their closest rivals.

Opinion is divided on this – as it is with regard to most issues in the domestic game.

Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin isn't a fan of the split but Glentoran chief Eddie Patterson thinks it works. A common complaint is that sides not haunted by the spectre of relegation and with no chance of reaching the top six have nothing left to play for. With nothing at stake, what excitement is there?

But clubs know the score and that's why the fight to get into the top six is so fierce.

If they aren't swimming with the big fish after the shake-up, don't they only have themselves to blame?

My view is that the split works because it throws up some cracking contests in the title run-in.

Who wants to see a team stroll to the championship?

Neutrals want a bit of nervous tension and if possible, final weekend drama with a helicopter waiting for directions.

League titles have to be earned – they can't be handed to you on a plate with all the trimmings.

It's only right that title chasers Linfield and Cliftonville are now going to be tested by Crusaders, Portadown and other Premiership heavyweights. If you want to be the best, you must beat the best.

Teams may not have title ambitions but the players and supporters will still relish the challenge of torpedoing their rivals' Gibson Cup dreams. What we have now is arguably the most exciting Premiership title race we have in recent memory.

Two heavyweights, Linfield and Cliftonville, are slugging it out and there can only be one winner.

It's so tight at the top that goal difference could end up shattering dreams and Tommy Breslin's side are three goals ahead on that count after their 5-0 hammering of Ballinamallard United at the weekend.

The Blues are only two points ahead with seven games remaining.

Both sides have won four games on the spin so there are no signs of any feet being removed from the accelerator.

There's nothing more boring in football than a title procession.

In the German Bundesliga, Bayern Munich are a massive 20 points ahead of nearest rivals Borussia Dortmund... zzzzzzz.

Meanwhile, in the Irish League's top flight there hasn't been this much tension since Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson were trapped in an elevator.

The league split brings everything to the boil and maximises the levels of tension and excitement.

The Linfield v Cliftonville clash at Windsor Park is already looking a tasty affair.

This year's cocktail has been given an extra kick by the ending of David Jeffrey's near 30-year association with Linfield.

In my view, if the Blues go on to pip Cliftonville to the title, it will go down as Jeffrey's finest achievement in the game.

After all he has been through this season, the Windsor Park chief is still in the mood for a big finish.

Three big developments could have knocked him off his stride. The first was the Blues sinking to the bottom of the league.

Secondly, there was that embarrassing YouTube video we can dub 'Callachergate' and thirdly, he had to announce his departure from the club at the end of this campaign.

Jeffrey knows what it takes to win a title but he faces a formidable opponent as the Reds did the business last season.

Fasten your seatbelts.

This roller-coaster ride isn't for the faint-hearted.

Belfast Telegraph


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