Monday 23 October 2017

Qualifier draw damaged by restrictive 'A' and 'B' division

Antrim now face Derry in the decider. Photo: Sportsfile
Antrim now face Derry in the decider. Photo: Sportsfile

On my way into Croke Park last Sunday, I was summoned by a few Dublin supporters who were looking for a roadmap to the All-Ireland final.

They had no doubts that another provincial title would be secured but what then? They knew that the Leinster and Ulster champions were on the same side for the All-Ireland semi-finals but what about the quarter-finals?

Mayo were the only opposition who held any fears for them so they were surprised to hear that if the green-and-red survive the three qualifier rounds, they cannot be paired with the Leinster (Dublin or Kildare) or Ulster champions (Tyrone or Down) in the quarter-finals.

Reluctant

It's all down to which side of the qualifier draws counties are located but they were still reluctant to accept that fixtures were preordained to such a degree that it's possible to identify who Round 4 qualifiers will play in quarter-finals before the first round was completed.

Sadly for the excitement levels of the draws, that is the case. Two survivors from Mayo, Derry, Donegal, Longford, Meath, Sligo, Laois, Clare will play the runners-up in Connacht (Galway or Roscommon) and Munster (Kerry or Cork) in Round 4A with the winners playing the Connacht and Munster champions in the quarter-finals.

It's similarly structured on the 'B' side of the qualifier draw, where the last two will play the beaten Ulster and Leinster finalists. The winners there will play the Ulster and Leinster champions in the quarter-finals.

This is the last year of the 'A' and 'B' system in the qualifiers, which revert to an open draw next season. Not before time either as the current structure is far too restrictive and severely limits who counties can be paired with.

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