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Nine have never seen 'Super 8s' territory

Dermot Earley, former CEO of the GPA. Photo: Sportsfile
Dermot Earley, former CEO of the GPA. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The plot may be new but the cast is not. The first group in the changed All-Ireland quarter-final format features eight of the 11 counties who have reached this stage most frequently since the qualifier system was introduced in 2001.

While that may have been expected, it re-emphasises the question raised by Dermot Earley, the then CEO of the GPA, at Congress last year as to what the 'Super 8s' concept offered lower-ranked counties. Some of its backers pointed out that 23 counties had reached the quarter-finals since 2001. Invoking the Lotto's 'it could be you' inducement approach, they were trying to persuade counties to back the Super 8s on the basis they would benefit everybody.

The reality is different. Offaly, Longford, Carlow, Louth, Wicklow, Antrim, Leitrim, London and Waterford have yet to reach the last eight, while Cavan, Tipperary, Clare, Limerick and Wexford have been there only once.

That's almost half the counties who have either watched from afar every year or got there only once. Down and Sligo have qualified twice, with Derry, Fermanagh and Westmeath all on three appearances. Few would have thought that Derry, Down and Cavan would feature so far down but Ulster titles have eluded all of them in the new Millennium while the qualifiers haven't brought the expected joy either.

At the top end of the market, Kerry are the only ones to reach the last eight in all 18 seasons. Dublin missed out only once (2003), with Tyrone (14), Mayo (12), Donegal (11) and Cork (11) next in line for quarter-final places.

With the Super 8s in place for three years, it's most unlikely that the merit of a secondary championship for lower-ranked counties will even be discussed until that experiment concludes.

Irish Independent

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