Thursday 8 December 2016

Football qualifiers: not as simple as 'AB'

Published 08/06/2016 | 02:30

There are enough restrictions and limitations in the provincial draws without adding to them in the qualifiers. Photo:Sportfile
There are enough restrictions and limitations in the provincial draws without adding to them in the qualifiers. Photo:Sportfile

So why is there and A and B side to the All-Ireland football qualifier draw?

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It's a question many followers continue to ask because frankly they cannot understand why yesterday's first round draw wasn't made from 16 counties in a single bowl, producing eight fixtures.

Instead, eight counties were deemed to be on the 'A' side and could only be paired with each other. The same applied with the eight on the 'B' side.

The 'A' and 'B' split, which will continue all the way to Round 4, was introduced in 2014 and is supposed to give greater clarity on when counties will be playing and also reduce the gap between being eliminated from the first round of the provincial championships and entering Round 1 of the qualifiers.

Yet, Longford and Antrim, who were knocked out of the provincial championships on the weekend on May 14/15 will have had a six-week wait by the time they play Down and Limerick respectively.

Allocating counties to either the 'A' or 'B' side before the season starts also limits the scope of the draw in terms of who counties can meet in various rounds.

That becomes especially significant later on when the runners-up in the provinces (or the team that beats them in Round 4) are sent a certain direction, rather than having a full open draw for the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

There are enough restrictions and limitations in the provincial draws without adding to them in the qualifiers.

On a sad note, Kildare has lost a loyal supporter in Michael Keane, former editor of the 'Sunday Press', whose funeral took place yesterday.

A native of Athy, he loved the Lilywhites through good and bad times, always full of optimism for the future, as indeed he was in an email to me after they were promoted from Division 3 in April.

May he rest in peace.

Irish Independent

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