Delaney rues introduction of qualifiers
RESTORING the provincial championships to primacy as the only route to All-Ireland glory remains the favoured option of Leinster chief executive Michael Delaney.
Delaney will conduct the Leinster draw at tonight's televised event in Croke Park and would much prefer if the football winners were to qualify directly for the All-Ireland semi-finals.
He accepts that he holds a minority viewpoint but insists that the introduction of the qualifiers has robbed the provincial championships of the excitement that existed pre-2001.
"To me, the championship is all about knock-out. That's what gives it the real cut and thrust. It can never be quite the same when every team that loses in the provinces gets a second chance," he said.
It's unlikely that there will ever be a return to the provincial championship being the sole method of qualification for the All-Ireland series as the new system not only guarantees teams a second chance but also provides the GAA with a large financial injection.
Delaney accepts that but still maintains that there was a special magic surrounding the provincial championships when played in a winner-takes-all format.
The formats for tonight's draws will be the same as in previous years for all provincial competitions except Leinster hurling, where Westmeath's return brings to nine the number of counties in the draw drum.
Westmeath, Laois, Carlow and Antrim will be drawn in the first round with the two winners joining Galway, Offaly, Dublin and Wexford to provide three pairings in the next round. Those winners will join Kilkenny, who are seeded through to the semi-finals.
In Leinster football, Meath, Louth, Dublin and Westmeath, who reached the semi-final this year, will be granted byes to the quarter-finals.
The only other restrictions in any of the provinces will be in Connacht where, according to rota, Roscommon will play New York and Mayo will face London in the first round.