Monday 26 February 2018

Meath and Down aim to avoid the curse of the six-day turnaround

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

CAN Meath and/or Down succeed where so many others have failed and win a Round 4 All-Ireland qualifier clash six days after losing a provincial football final?

The answer will emerge on Saturday when Meath play Laois in Tullamore and Down take on Tipperary in Mullingar. They will do so with the weight of history stacked against them, as no team has been able to beat the six-day curse since the All-Ireland qualifier system was introduced in 2001.

Dublin beat Sligo in 2001 seven days after losing the Leinster final to Meath, but it's the only case of a team winning on the following weekend after suffering a provincial decider knock-back.

The timing of the qualifiers/All-Ireland quarter-finals allowed teams a minimum 13-day break before a Round 4 game in the 2005-08 seasons after complaints from counties that it was unfair on players to face two crucial games so quickly.

However, the quick turnaround resumed for beaten provincial finalists in 2009 and the losing sequence continued as Galway, Antrim, Sligo, Monaghan and Derry have all lost since then.

Meath manager Seamus McEnaney, who experienced the six-day turnaround as Monaghan boss in 2010 when they lost to Kildare, pleaded to be given an extra day after Sunday's Leinster final defeat by Dublin, but the fixture-makers ignored the request.

hit

Ulster teams have been particularly hard hit as their provincial final has fallen a week before the Round 4 qualifiers for four successive seasons.

It's supposed to be done on a rota basis involving all four provinces, but Ulster run a rigid schedule which sees them complete their programme quite late every season. Consequently, their beaten finalists are in the firing line every year.

It now means that Down, who lost to Donegal by 11 points last Sunday, must return to action on Saturday. Meath are facing the same challenge but are probably in a better position psychologically as they finished strongly against Dublin, whereas Down were swamped on the home run.

It's possible that this will be the last season when counties face such a quick turnaround after losing a provincial final.

Proposals are under consideration to reshape the back-door draws so as to avoid long gaps between early provincial exits and entry to the qualifiers and to end the six-day turnaround. They are likely to come before Congress next year.

Irish Independent

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