GAA say hands tied as Ulster and Connacht again face qualifier woe
ONE county from Connacht and Ulster will be left at a severe disadvantage in next year's championship as they again face a six-day turnaround between losing a provincial final and a Round 4 qualifier tie.
Sligo and Monaghan were severely critical of the quick turnaround after losing qualifier games to Down and Kildare respectively last July. Sligo were especially disappointing, losing to Down by 19 points six days after being beaten by a point by Roscommon in the Connacht final.
Sligo manager Kevin Walsh said afterwards that it was impossible for a team to get themselves right for a qualifier game so soon after losing a provincial final and asked why the Connacht championship, which had started on May 2, wasn't completed until July 18.
Hopes that there would be a return to a 13-day turnaround next year have not materialised and, once again, it will be the losers in Connacht and Ulster who face the handicap. The Connacht and Ulster finals will take place on July 17 and, with the All-Ireland quarter-finals two weeks later, the Round 4 qualifiers will be played in between.
"Our hands are tied when it comes to All-Ireland quarter-finals. By rule, they must be completed by the first Monday in August and with some provincial finals only being played two weeks earlier, we have no room for manoeuvre with the fourth round qualifiers," said Croke Park spokesman, Fergal McGill.
However, players from Ulster and Connacht will be wondering why they face the six-day turnaround for a second successive year whereas Munster and Leinster runners-up have three and two week breaks respectively after their finals on July 3 and 10.
Playing the weekend after losing a provincial final has proved hugely problematical for teams with only one of 12 winning the Round 4 qualifier. Dublin beat Sligo six days after losing the Leinster final in 2001, but no runners-up have survived that turnaround since.
The only solution is for provinces to complete their championships earlier, but that does not appear to be on the agenda. However, it's understood the provincial final rota will change in 2012 so that Connacht and Munster runners-up don't face the quick turnaround for a fourth successive year.