GAA fearing disaster of action-free Bank Holiday
A draw in any one of the three third-round qualifiers this weekend could have serious ramifications for the scheduling of the remainder of the All-Ireland football championship.
With one second-round replay between Wicklow and Armagh already throwing a very tight schedule off course, GAA officials will be keeping their fingers crossed that the games in Limerick (Limerick v Waterford), Casement Park (Antrim v Down) and Navan (Meath v Kildare) all produce a winner.
Another draw would make it virtually impossible to have an All-Ireland quarter-final draw on the following Sunday night, July 24, because of the restrictions it would impose on the potential permutations.
In that event, the GAA's Central Competition Controls Committee (CCCC) would have to consider delaying the draw by seven days and putting back the All-Ireland quarter-finals by six or seven days, leaving the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of July and beginning of August without championship action.
That would be a PR disaster for the association, one that the CCCC would be keen to avoid.
Under rule 6.27 (iii) that governs the organisation of the football championships, the All-Ireland quarter-finals are determined by draw, with the stipulation that the four provincial champions play the four winners of Round 4 of the qualifiers, provided the provincial champions don't meet the defeated finalists from their own province.
But if two of the fourth-round qualifier winners are not decided by the night of Sunday, July 24 (the fourth-round qualifier involving two of Wicklow, Armagh, Tyrone, Mayo and Roscommon is already put back to the Bank Holiday weekend) then it virtually pre-ordains the pairings because of the need to observe the relevant rule stipulating that provincial final pairings cannot be repeated.
This throws up the question of whether it could then be classed as a draw, as the rule requires.
So far this season there have been very few draws in the 43 football championship matches that have been played.
London brought Mayo to extra-time in Ruislip in the Connacht championship, and Armagh were held by Wicklow in the Morgan Athletic Grounds on Saturday, even after extra-time.
The potential anomaly casts a cloud over the very tight nature of the scheduling of games in July and the desire to have the football championship down to just eight counties by the first weekend in August.
The odds for a draw in the Meath/Kildare match is 7/1, with 9/1 being offered in the other two third-round qualifiers between Limerick and Waterford and Antrim and Down.