Qualifiers are essential for developing young players – Horan
DON'T get rid of the qualifiers. That's the plea of Limerick boss Maurice Horan as the second-chance saloon door swings open for 16 football teams this weekend.
It has been argued that the qualifiers have run their course and that they have taken away from the provincial championships.
Too many one-sided qualifier games and the fact no one outside Division 1 sides have been able to make an All-Ireland glory run from the early rounds since Roscommon (2003), Fermanagh (2004) and Westmeath and Laois (2005/06) have also added to the ammunition against them but Horan is adamant that they need to be retained.
"Teams love the qualifiers, there's still only a certain number of teams who can win provincial titles but the back door still does give other teams a chance," he said.
"We got to an All-Ireland quarter-final through the qualifiers two years ago and also got a three-game run which was vital. Games like that are particularly important if you're trying to develop younger players.
"The ideal scenario is to draw a team that you have little or no experience of, one from another division for example, because it is a challenge for players to pit themselves against a team they don't know."
Unfortunately for Limerick, who suffered an 18-point drubbing by Cork in Munster, they've drawn Longford in the first round, who took them to extra-time in the second round last year. And they also have to travel to Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday night, a notoriously difficult venue.
"We know exactly what we're up against and this is a particularly tough draw for us," Horan said.
Longford have been hit with the loss of Michael Quinn with a heel injury. Limerick's players all came through a full round of local championship games unscathed last weekend. But the Division 4 champions will definitely be without Ian Ryan, who suffered an injury in that final against Offaly.
"It was a real freak injury. Ian went up for a ball and just went over on his ankle on landing. The doctors said it's the kind of injury you'd normally only get in a car crash," Horan revealed.
"It has been responding well but he hasn't been able to participate in training yet and there's really no knowing when he might be back."
Horan has persuaded former county captain Michael Reidy out of retirement to strengthen his squad and also added county U-21 Patrick O'Donnell to his panel.
"Michael felt he couldn't give us the commitment earlier this season so it's great he's back in because he brings us the sort of experience that we've lost with Ian's injury," Horan said.