Tuesday 6 December 2016

What might have been...

Published 27/02/2010 | 05:00

What if the All-Ireland football qualifiers had not been introduced for the 2001 championship? Where would the next nine titles have gone?

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Galway (2001), Tyrone (2005, 2008) and Kerry (2006, 2009) won All-Irelands after failing to win their provincial titles so presumably different champions would have been crowned in those five years. Then again, if strong counties didn't have the psychological safety net which the qualifiers provide would the provincial championships have taken a different course?

For instance, would Kerry have failed to win four of the last nine Munster titles if it meant the end of their All-Ireland dream? They lost to Cork in the 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2009 Munster championships but came back each time to torment their great rivals in Croke Park.

2001

Old system semi-finals: Roscommon v Tyrone; Meath v Kerry.

Actual semi-finals: Galway v Derry; Meath v Kerry.

A strong Roscommon team had beaten Galway and Mayo in Connacht but ran into a much-improved Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final. The same happened to Tyrone, who beat Derry in Ulster but lost the rematch.

Tyrone v Roscommon would have been a close semi-final with Tyrone the marginal fancies. Kerry and Meath won their provincial titles and clashed in the All-Ireland semi-final. Meath won easily but were demolished by Galway in the final leaving Gary Fahey (below) to lift the Sam Maguire. Under the old system, it would have probably have been a Meath-Tyrone final with the Royals' experience prevailing.

Likely final (under old system): Meath v Tyrone.

Likely winners: Meath.

Actual final: Galway v Meath.

Actual winners: Galway.

2002

Old system semi-finals: Galway v Cork; Dublin v Armagh.

Actual semi-finals: Kerry v Cork; Dublin v Armagh.

Kerry were the only non-provincial champions to reach the semi-finals, before gaining revenge over Cork who had beaten them in the Munster semi.

Likely final (under old system): Cork v Armagh.

Likely winners: Armagh.

Actual final: Armagh v Kerry.

Winners: Armagh.

2003

Old system semi-finals: Galway v Laois; Tyrone v Kerry.

Actual semi-finals: Donegal v Armagh; Tyrone v Kerry.

Neither the Connacht (Galway) nor Leinster (Laois) champions made it to the All-Ireland semi-finals and were replaced by Donegal and Armagh, the 2002 champions. Galway would probably have beaten Laois in the semi-final and set up a final against Tyrone, who beat Kerry. Whatever the line-up, Tyrone's destiny had probably been decided high in the heavens.

Likely final (under old system): Galway v Tyrone.

Likely winners: Tyrone.

Actual final: Armagh v Tyrone.

Winners: Tyrone.

2004

Old system semi-finals: Mayo v Armagh; Westmeath v Kerry.

Actual semi-finals: Mayo v Fermanagh; Derry v Kerry.

Mayo and Kerry were the only provincial champions to reach the semi-finals. Westmeath lost to Derry while Armagh lost to Fermanagh in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Likely final (under old system): Armagh v Kerry.

Likely winners: Kerry.

Actual final: Mayo v Kerry.

Winners: Kerry.

2005

Old system semi-finals: Galway v Kerry; Dublin v Armagh.

Actual semi-finals: Cork v Kerry; Tyrone v Armagh.

A year in which there would definitely have been different All-Ireland champions as Tyrone failed to get out of Ulster, losing to Armagh in a replay.

They later beat Armagh by a point in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Likely final (under old system): Kerry v Armagh.

Likely winners: Armagh.

Actual final: Kerry v Tyrone.

Winners: Tyrone.

2006

Old system semi-finals: Mayo v Dublin; Cork v Armagh.

Actual semi-finals: Mayo v Dublin; Cork v Kerry.

Three of the four provincial champions (Armagh were the exceptions) reached the All-Ireland semi-finals. However, it was qualifier survivors, Kerry, who scooped the big prize, having avenged the Munster final defeat by Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Likely final (under old system): Mayo v Armagh.

Likely winners: Armagh.

Actual final: Kerry v Mayo.

Winners: Kerry.

2007

Old system semi-finals: Sligo v Tyrone; Dublin v Kerry.

Actual semi-finals: Cork v Meath; Dublin v Kerry.

Neither the Connacht (Sligo) nor Ulster (Tyrone) champions made it to the All-Ireland semi-finals. They were replaced by Cork and Meath who worked the back-door route well.

Cork eventually reached the final where they were hammered by Kerry.

Likely final (under old system): Tyrone v Kerry.

Likely winners: Tyrone.

Actual final: Kerry v Cork.

Winners: Kerry.

2008

Old system semi-finals: Galway v Cork; Dublin v Armagh.

Actual semi-finals: Kerry v Cork; Wexford v Tyrone.

This was the first year neither All-Ireland finalists won their province.

Under the old system, Dublin would probably have made it through to the final as their semi-finals opponents would have been Armagh who had lost to Wexford in the quarters. Dublin had hammered Wexford in Leinster. Indeed, there's a good chance Dublin would have won the All-Ireland.

Likely final (under old system): Cork v Dublin.

Likely winners: Dublin.

Actual final: Kerry v Tyrone.

Winners: Tyrone.

2009

Old system semi-finals: Mayo v Dublin; Cork v Tyrone.

Actual semi-finals: Meath v Kerry; Cork v Tyrone.

Meath and Kerry deposed provincial champions, Mayo and Dublin respectively in the quarters with Kerry taking their fifth title of the decade.

This would have been another glorious opportunity for Dublin to reach the All-Ireland final.

Likely final (under old system): Dublin v Cork.

Likely winners: Cork.

Actual final: Kerry v Cork.

Winners: Kerry.

martin breheny

Irish Independent

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