SFC qualifier revamp to speed up club championships

GAA chiefs have confirmed major changes to the format of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers next year.

The Association’s Master fixtures list reveals the first round of qualifiers will be played over consecutive Saturdays – June 21 and 28.

Round 1A is down for decision on June 21 – with round 1B to be run off a week later.

Counties will learn in advance of the championship which side of the qualifier draw they will be placed into, should they lose a provincial fixture.

Previously, 16 teams were placed into a bowl for the Round 1 draw but now, they will be split into two groups of eight.

GAA fixtures-makers were anxious to ensure a more streamlined championship system, while also affording more time for county boards to run off club games.

The system where all 16 teams were placed in the one bowl has existed since the qualifier system was introduced in 2001.

The key principles of the Allianz Hurling Leagues for 2014 have also been outlined by Croke Park.

Division 1 will be split into two six-team groups, with each county playing five regulation matches.

Division 1 quarter-finals and semi-finals will be run off on a home and away basis, with home advantage at the quarter-final stage for next season handed to the county with the least number of home matches in the group phase, or by a coin toss.

The bottom two teams in Division 1A after five group matches will play a relegation play-off, with the losers condemned to Division 1B for 2015.

Similarly, the two bottom teams in Division 1B will play off against each other and the loser of that game plays the Division 2A champions, with a place in Division 1B on offer for the 2015 campaign.

GAA top brass have also confirmed that Ulster rivals Armagh and Down will meet under lights in Division 2 of the Allianz NFL on Friday, February 7.

Armagh will have home advantage at the Morgan Athletic grounds and Fergal McGill, the GAA’s Director of Games Administration and Player welfare, explained: “What happens is the CCC will propose various fixtures and counties come back to us and say whether it suits them or not.”

McGill is also pleased that the GAA managed to churn out their masters fixtures plan so quickly – particularly given the recent controversy surrounding the National Hurling League revamp.

He said: “It was complicated this year and only for the uncertainty over the hurling league we would have had it ready a couple of weeks ago. The importance of getting this out early is that counties can now plan club fixtures. They can’t do that until they know when their county teams are playing next year.”


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