Sunday 21 December 2014

Power surge from provincial winners keeps back door shut

Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30

Galway manager Alan Mulholland and his captain Paul Conroy know they face a mountainous task against Kerry in their All-Ireland quarter-final. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Galway manager Alan Mulholland and his captain Paul Conroy know they face a mountainous task against Kerry in their All-Ireland quarter-final. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

A dramatic power swing back to the provincial champions has left Cork and Galway grasping at straws ahead of Sunday's first two All-Ireland quarter-finals.

While managers Brian Cuthbert and Alan Mulholland are talking up as many positives as they can find, they know that their sides face mountainous tasks. A Cork-Galway double is priced at 13/1, whereas a Mayo-Kerry double is even money.

The odds are greatly influenced by easy wins for the latter two in the Connacht and Munster finals, where they beat Galway and Cork by a combined total of 19 points, but the return to power of provincial champions in All-Ireland quarter-finals over the last three seasons is also a significant factor.

Victories for the provincial champions stand at 11-1 over three seasons, with Tyrone the only qualifier to buck the trend when they beat Ulster winners, Monaghan last season. Tyrone were well beaten by Mayo in the semi-final.

Calls for changes to the championship system increased at the end of 2010 when Cork were the only provincial winners to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals after Meath, Tyrone and Kerry crashed out in the quarter-finals. Over the previous three years, qualifiers had beaten provincial winners 7-5 in quarter-finals.

It led to claims that the provincial championships were being downgraded and would almost certainly have resulted in a revamp if the pattern continued.

However, all has changed over the last three seasons and now the four provincial winners are hotly fancied to reach the semi-finals.

The All-Ireland title has been won by provincial winners for the last three years, leaving Cork in 2010 as the last side to take the crown, via the 'back door.'

Wins for provincial winners over qualifiers in All-Ireland quarter-finals stand at 31-21 since the new championship system was introduced in 2001.

Irish Independent

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