Friday 15 December 2017

Monaghan propose a 13-day break for provincial final losers

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Guaranteeing beaten provincial football finalists a minimum 13-day break before playing in the All-Ireland qualifiers is back on the GAA agenda amid growing dissatisfaction with the current system.

Monaghan are leading the call to amend the timetable, which has seen some counties forced to play fourth- round qualifier ties six days after losing provincial finals. They will put their case to Congress on Saturday.

"We found ourselves in that situation last year, as did Sligo. It's very hard for players to get themselves right so quickly after losing a provincial final. We think there should be a 13-day break," said Monaghan chairman, Paul Curran.

Monaghan lost to Kildare by four points in the Round 4 qualifier last year while Sligo caved in completely against Down, losing by 19 points.

Dublin (2001) are only county to have beaten the six-day blues since the introduction of the new championship system 10 years ago.

Since then, 11 teams have tried and failed, underlining just how difficult it is. The timetable was changed in the 2005-2008 seasons to allow beaten provincial finalists a minimum of 13 days before entering the qualifiers, but reverted to the original system in 2009.


Connacht and Ulster continue to be worst hit as their finals are played on the third Sunday in July, with the fourth-round qualifiers on the following Saturday. In contrast, the Munster runners-up have a three-week break, while their Leinster counterparts have 13 days to prepare for re-entry to the All-Ireland series.

Antrim, meanwhile, have turned their attentions to the All-Ireland club championships, proposing that they be completed in all grades before the start of the Allianz Leagues in early February.

The junior and intermediate finals take place on the second weekend in February, while the flagship senior deciders in Croke Park are on St Patrick's Day.

However, Antrim will argue that prolonging the championships to mid-March causes fixture problems and adds extra costs for the clubs involved.

They also have a specific issue in that their hurling champions usually win the Ulster title and won't release their county players for the start of the Allianz Leagues.

It's unlikely, however, that Antrim will get enough support to force through a change. Croke Park remains committed to playing the senior finals on St Patrick's Day, citing their public appeal on the national holiday as a reason to further promotion, rather than play them earlier and risk a major fall-off in attendances.

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