Monday 11 December 2017

Duffy lashes O'Connor qualifier criticism as without foundation

Daragh O Conchuir

GAA boss Paraic Duffy has accused Jack O'Connor of moving the goalposts over his criticism of the All-Ireland SFC qualifier system in the wake of Kerry's defeat to Down.

Duffy reckons that the Kerry manager does not have the weight of evidence on his side when claiming that the Munster title is not worth trying to win.

And Croke Park's director general also believes the Kerry manager has changed tack after his team were eliminated from the All-Ireland championship last weekend.

Duffy made a compelling case for the retention of the current system when speaking at yesterday's Vodafone GAA Player of the Month award presentations to Kildare footballer Eamonn Callaghan and Waterford hurler Tony Browne.

"The point I'd make about Jack O'Connor's comments is that in the last 10 years since the qualifiers began, this is the first time that the Munster champions haven't qualified for the semi-finals. So nine times out of 10, the Munster champions have made the semi-finals.

"I think it would be wrong to make a decision based on one year. This is the first time ever that the four provincial champions have gone out at the quarter-final stage.

"On the law of averages, it was always going to happen some time. So to change our structures because of that would probably be a mistake."

And Duffy remains to be convinced that teams coming through from the qualifiers have an unfair advantage.

“I think that’s a matter of opinion,” he said. “Jack O’Connor, for example, said very strongly that he wanted Kerry to go the provincial route on the basis that it would give you a break.”

Interestingly, Callaghan also revealed that despite the phenomenal progress Kildare had made in getting to the semifinals having entered the qualifiers in the first round, he would have preferred if the Lilies had made the last eight as Leinster champions.

Duffy took less of an issue with Mickey Harte’s observations in the wake of Tyrone’s defeat to Dublin, because he had aired them previously, although he did point out that the Red Hands had to wait only two weeks between their Ulster final and the All-Ireland quarter-final.

He also argued that the relative weakness of Connacht football in the past decade had skewed the figures, with the western champions failing to reach the last four in eight of the past 10 years.

The Monaghan native explained that providing teams with a second chance had never been the reason for the qualifiers.

“If you go back to the time it came in, the big complaint was that (teams) trained all winter, they lost one game and they were out of the championship,” added Duffy. “So the original focus was to make sure every team got a minimum of two games, and it does that.

“The second thing is there are two ways of qualifying for the All-Ireland series, which is a separate competition.

“You can qualify by the provincial championship route or by the qualifier series and the best eight teams presumably qualify for the All-Ireland series, which is a knockout competition.

“It’s a separate competition, so at that stage, would it be fair to give the provincial champions a second chance and not give the other teams a second chance in the All-Ireland series?”

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