Qualifier guarantee for lucky trio of counties

Cork, Kerry, and Roscommon are the only teams guaranteed to avoid the first round of this year’s All-Ireland senior football championship qualifiers.

The seeded nature of the Munster SFC, which rewards the previous year’s finalists with byes to the semi-finals, and Roscommon’s fortune in being drawn in a Connacht semi-final for the second year in a row, means the trio will begin the All-Ireland competition at the earliest on Saturday, June 23, in the second qualifier round, which takes place on the same day as the Munster SFC final.

The disparity of the provincial championships feeding into the All-Ireland SFC is highlighted by the advantageous circumstances provided to Cork and Kerry, compared to Ulster SFC preliminary round teams, Cavan and Donegal, who would have to win one of two games to reach the second round of the backdoor.

To make the Super 8, either team will have to win four consecutive games in their provincial championship (ie, win the Anglo-Celt Cup), through the qualifier system, or win four between the Ulster SFC and the qualifiers. In contrast, if Cork, Kerry, and Roscommon win their respective semi-finals, they need only claim another victory from their following two outings to make the All-Ireland quarter-final stages.

After four seasons of a split backdoor system, this year sees a return to the open qualifier draw, meaning any of the 16 teams that failed to reach their provincial semi-finals — the four quarter-finalists in Leinster, Connacht, and Ulster, the three in Connacht, and the Ulster preliminary round losers — can be pitted against one another.

Most, if not all, of the qualifiers are expected to take place on Saturdays, with the master fixtures calendar scheduling them for June 9, 23, 30, and with the final knockout round taking place on July 7 or 8.

That sequencing means a team hoping to reach a Super 8 All-Ireland quarter-final group from the second-round stage must win three games in as many weekends, before their Super 8 outings on July 14/15 and July 21/22, a total of five in succession.

Meanwhile, Leinster GAA have set their prices the same as the Munster Council for the forthcoming provincial hurling championships. Adult stand tickets for the round-robin matches will be €20, if purchased before matchday, and €15 for terrace. Juvenile admission is priced at €5. As of now, stand tickets for the Dublin-Kilkenny opener in Parnell Park aren’t available on public sale, as season-ticket holders are expected to fill the stand at the Donnycarney venue.

Rugby Podcast: Ronan O'Gara, Donal Lenihan and Simon Lewis on the Champions Cup semi-finals. Plus travel agent Pat Dawson on the plight of the fans.


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