Thursday 22 February 2018

Back-door All-Ireland winners may face lock-out

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

A MOTION to stop teams who win the All-Ireland through the back door from getting a second chance over the next three years could yet be debated at next year's Congress.

Wexford dual club St Anne's of Rathangan firmly believe they have a really good chance of getting it passed locally next month and bringing it all the way to Congress.

"It's a very simple proposal, that any county that wins an All-Ireland through the back-door system doesn't get to re-enter it and get a second chance again for the next three years," St Anne's secretary Thomas Ryan said.

"If it was up to me I'd get rid of the back-door completely. But, having canvassed several opinions, we have put forward this proposal because we believe it has a very good chance of being passed.

"This back-door system was brought in to help so-called 'weaker' teams but when was the last time it really helped a weaker county?

"We saw Kilkenny, the top hurling team in the country, getting beaten in the Leinster final and still winning the All-Ireland, whereas Waterford beat Cork twice in 2007 and still didn't get through.

"Kerry, the most successful county in football, are after winning two of their recent All-Irelands through the back door.

"But for weaker teams, like Leitrim in football and Westmeath and Carlow in hurling, what is it doing only prolonging the agony?"

Ryan believes another unwanted side effect is that the qualifier systems delay local club championships.

Wexford's last All-Ireland senior hurling title came in 1996 – the last straight knockout championship.

While the second-chance qualifier system has applied to the football championships since 2001, it was initially introduced in hurling in 1997 when the beaten Leinster and Munster finalists were given another chance to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals through quarter-finals.

It was changed again in 2005 when they were joined in the quarter-finals by the winners of two round-robin groups of earlier losers, and this was further tweaked in 2008 to the current system.

But critics of the back door have accused it of making provincial finals less competitive and also blame it for to the recent inability of any of the weaker teams to make a real breakthrough.

The St Anne's proposal will certainly revive the qualifier debate.

Irish Independent

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