Saturday 20 July 2019

Weekend ties could be last qualifiers for many counties with two-tier championship set to be trialled from next season

Offaly and London, pictured during their round one qualifiers, would have been excluded from the back door had a two-tier championship been in place this year. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Offaly and London, pictured during their round one qualifiers, would have been excluded from the back door had a two-tier championship been in place this year. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Several of the counties playing in the second round of the football qualifiers next weekend could be experiencing the 'back-door' for the last time.

With a proposal for a two-tier championship due to come before Central Council later this month, teams from Division 3 and 4 face exclusion from the qualifiers from next year on.

That depends on the two-tier plan being accepted, but current indications are that it will attract enough support to be introduced on an experimental basis for a few seasons.

It's understood that the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) support a tiered competition, but only if Division 3 and 4 teams are excluded from the qualifiers.

Some counties want to take their chance through the back door, followed by entry to the second tier if they fail to survive Round 2 of the qualifiers.

However, the CCCC fear that would cut the time available for club activity, a problem that is already causing angst all over the country. The CCCC want a return to the broad format that applied in 2007-2008, when Division 4 teams were excluded from the qualifiers and, instead, competed in the Tommy Murphy Cup.

A new second-tier competition would extend to Division 3 also, with the exception for a county that qualified for their provincial final.

They would continue in the All-Ireland race, thereby reducing the number in the second tier that year.

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Cork are a case in point. Despite dropping to Division 3 this year, they would not play in the second tier, having reached the Munster final.

Laois (promoted to Division 3) would not have been in Tier 2 last year because of their success in reaching the Leinster final.

Of next weekend's second-round contestants, Antrim, Derry, Longford, Limerick, Leitrim, Down, Sligo and Offaly would not be eligible for the qualifiers under the latest two-tier system.

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