Kerry a model of consistency as Limerick finally join last-eight club
LIMERICK'S long-awaited arrival in the last eight brings to 20 the number of counties who have reached the All-Ireland football quarter-finals since the new championship system was introduced 10 years ago.
Limerick were unlucky not have reached this stage much earlier but have finally made it after beating Offaly, Waterford and Wexford in the qualifiers.
And while the quarter-final draw was unkind, pairing them with their Munster semi-final conquerors Kerry, it will still be a huge occasion when they line out at Croke Park on Sunday.
Seven of the 11 seasons since the back door was opened in 2001 have produced at least one new quarter-finalist. Down were last year's newcomers. Kildare and Wexford came aboard for the first time in 2008, a year after Monaghan.
Kerry are only county to have reached the quarter-finals for 11 consecutive seasons (and last year's loss to Down was their only defeat). Dublin missed out only once (2003) but have failed to reach even one All-Ireland final in those 11 years.
Tyrone will move into outright third place on the quarter-final table if they beat Roscommon on Saturday.
Limerick's arrival leaves 12 counties (including London) who have still to qualify for the quarter-finals. They include Offaly, who won four All-Ireland and 10 Leinster titles between 1960 and 1997, and Cavan, holders of five All-Ireland and 39 Ulster titles.
It was thought that the qualifiers would suit counties like Offaly and Cavan, but neither has made much use of the second chance. Galway were first to exploit the qualifiers, winning the All-Ireland title in 2001, but have reached the quarter-finals only four times since then, all through the Connacht championship.
All-Ireland SFC quarter-finalists 2001-11
11 -- Kerry (2001-11)
10 -- Dublin (2001, 2002, 2004-11)
8 -- * Tyrone (2001, 2003-05, 2007-10), Cork (2002, 2005-11)
6 -- Armagh (2002-06, 2008), Mayo (2002, 2004-06, 2009, 2011)
5 -- Donegal (2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2011), Galway (2001-03, 2005, 2008)
4 -- Kildare (2008-11), Meath (2001, 2007, 2009, 2010)
3 -- Derry (2001, 2004, 2007), Laois (2003, 2005, 2006), * Roscommon (2001, 2003, 2010), Westmeath (2001, 2004, 2006)
2 -- Fermanagh (2003, 2004), Sligo (2002, 2007)
1 -- Wexford (2008), Monaghan (2007), Down (2010), Limerick (2011).
* Tyrone and Roscommon meet on Saturday to decide this year's last quarter-final spot
Yet to reach quarter-final (12): Carlow, Longford, Louth, Offaly, Wicklow, Clare, Waterford, Tipperary, Antrim, Cavan, Leitrim, London. (Kilkenny don't compete at senior level).