Counties football teams could face prospect of playing 19 games across 24 weeks in 2023

That’s the prospect for a county that reaches a league final, is drawn in a provincial preliminary round, reaches that final and then progresses to an All-Ireland final via the preliminary quarter-finals.
Counties football teams could face prospect of playing 19 games across 24 weeks in 2023

HECTIC: The 19 games in 24 weeks scenario is more of a reality for the Ulster counties. Pic: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Eight counties face the extreme possibility of playing 19 football league and championship games in the space of 24 weeks in 2023.

That’s the prospect for a county that reaches a league final, is drawn in a provincial preliminary round, reaches that final and then progresses to an All-Ireland final via the preliminary quarter-finals.

As a result of the Allianz League finals being retained and taking place on April 1 or 2, the weekend before the preliminary rounds in the two provinces, two of five counties in Ulster and six of Carlow, Laois, Longford, Louth, Offaly, Wexford and Wicklow could have mammoth campaigns next season.

Because they were drawn in this year’s Ulster SFC preliminary round, Fermanagh and Tyrone receive byes to the quarter-finals in 2023 as does the 2021 preliminary round pairing of Donegal and Down. However, others in the province may have to win three games to reach the final and therefore be seeded in the Sam Maguire Cup. The Ulster SFC is due to be run off in five to six weeks.

As they did not reach the Leinster quarter-finals last year, six of the aforementioned seven counties will be drawn next month in the province’s preliminary round.

The 19 games in 24 weeks scenario is more of a reality for the Ulster counties given one or both of preliminary round sies are likelier to feature in the Sam Maguire Cup – outside of Donegal and Tyrone, three of them - Armagh, Derry and Monaghan are in the top two divisions. As Carlow, Laois, Wexford and Wicklow are in Division 4 at the start of 2024, they would have to qualify for the Leinster final to make the last 16 of the Sam Maguire Cup.

Nevertheless, counties who are drawn in the provincial preliminaries and later compete in the Tailteann Cup also have intense campaigns ahead as the secondary championship follows a similar format to the Sam Maguire Cup and concludes two weeks earlier than the All-Ireland final.

The Allianz League round stages, as before, are played over nine weekends with two break weekends and the finals are due for decision the week after the final round. The 2023 inter-county football season commences at the end of January and the Tailteann Cup concludes in mid-July and the Sam Maguire Cup at the end of that month.

Should Kerry repeat their 2022 season and win their way to an All-Ireland final, their schedule is expected to commence on April 22/23 with a provincial semi-final and finish on July 30, a run of eight games in 14 weeks – two in Munster, three in the qualifier round robin series and the All-Ireland quarter-finals onwards. Failing to top their qualifier group will add a game, preliminary quarters. Even at that, it would be two less SFC outings than the maximum potentially facing an Ulster side.

This year’s All-Ireland runners-up Galway could have the same championship path as Kerry should they be placed in the Connacht semi-finals, while Dublin will have at least one game as they start their Leinster campaign at the quarter-final stages. They would also expect to feature in the Division 2 final in April.

All Allianz League counties' minimum number of SFC matches doubles from two to four in 2023 - in New York's case, it is two as was the case this past season. All bar the eight counties who finish bottom of the round-robin groups in the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cup qualifiers are guaranteed 12 season games in 2023.

* The minimum and maximum number of games each county can play in next year’s 26-week long season (Allianz Football League and All-Ireland senior football championship). Seven is the lowest number of fixtures a team can play in the league, the largest being eight and in the championship the minimum is four matches and the maximum is 11.

MUNSTER: Clare 11 min 18 max; Cork 11 min 18 max; Kerry 11 min 17 max; Limerick 11 min 17 max; Tipperary 11 min 18 max; Waterford 11 min 18 max.

CONNACHT: Galway 11 min 18 max; Leitrim 11 min 18 max; London 11 min 18 max; Mayo 11 min 18 max; New York 2 min 5 max; Roscommon 11 min 18 max; Sligo 11 min 18 max.

LEINSTER: Carlow 11 min 19 max; Dublin 11 min 18 max; Kildare 11 min 18 max; Laois 11 min 19 max; Longford 11 min 19 max; Louth 11 min 19 max; Meath 11 min 18 max; Offaly 11 min 19 max; Westmeath 11 min 18 max; Wexford 11 min 19 max; Wicklow 11 min 19 max.

ULSTER: Antrim 11 min 19 max; Armagh 11 min 19 max; Cavan 11 min 19 max; Derry 11 min 19 max; Donegal 11 min 19 max; Down 11 min 19 max; Fermanagh 11 min 18 max; Monaghan 11 min 19 max; Tyrone 11 min 18 max.

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