New proposal to end six-day turnaround for losing provincial football finalists
THE controversial six-day turnaround for beaten provincial football finalists may be in its last year.
The losers of Sunday's Leinster and Ulster football finals will face Round 4 qualifier games on Saturday week, when, if the pattern is maintained, their chances of reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals are greatly diminished.
However, if a plan currently being considered by the GAA's National Fixture Planning Committee, chaired by Paul Kinsella (Kilkenny) is adopted, qualifiers in various rounds would be played on separate weekends, thus avoiding the six-day turnaround. All-Ireland quarter-finals would also be played over two weekends.
It's all part of an overall review of the summer schedules, in particular, the long wait for some counties between elimination from the provincial championships and the start of the All-Ireland football qualifiers, the uneven spread of games and the six-day turnaround for provincial final losers.
The latter is especially contentious, with counties who have experienced it complaining that it's virtually impossible for players who have lost a provincial final to prepare for qualifier action in six days against opponents who have at least two wins behind them.
The extent of the difficulty is borne out by the stats, which show that only one of 13 provincial final losers won a qualifier tie on the following weekend since the 'back door' was opened in 2001. Dublin beat Sligo that year, but since then all provincial final losers have found the quick turnaround too much to deal with.
The losers of Dublin v Meath are scheduled to play Laois or Leitrim on Saturday week with the losers of Donegal v Down playing Tipperary or Antrim on the same day.
Apart from amending the Round 4 dates, the fixture planners are also considering a mechanism to improve the spread of football games throughout the summer, while also ensuring that counties enter the qualifiers no later than four weeks after a provincial exit.
This would involve aligning championship matches across provinces which would require counties going on a certain side of the qualifiers rather than taking their chance in an open draw as is currently the case.
"The benefit would be that no team would have to play within a week of losing a provincial championship game; the maximum wait for any game would be three to four weeks and we would have a better spread of action. It's also designed to help club activity. It's quite complex, but we hope to bring the final proposal to Congress next year," said GAA director of games Fergal McGill.