Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Joe Kernan: One strike and you’re out, rough justice for provincial champions

There seems to be rather more hardy annuals cropping up within the GAA.

Indiscipline, controversial refereeing decisions in major matches, fixtures planning and amendments to the playing rules are just some of the issues that trigger ongoing debate.

And as we approach the first round of the All Ireland football qualifiers, there is another matter which I think should be addressed as a matter of urgency although it has been ventilated before but to no effect.

It is still a source of mystery and bewilderment to many of us just why provincial champions are not afforded a second bite at the cherry if they are beaten in their All Ireland quarter-final ties. They are the only sides in the entire championship series who do not benefit from the cushion of the qualifiers and I am at a loss to understand why the GAA authorities have not acted on this before now.

It has been pointed out that to stage another round of qualifying ties would not be feasible because the fixture list as it is currently constituted is top-heavy. Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has suggested in the past that four more ties would hardly overburden the fixtures calendar but it seems that the powers-that-be are still turning a deaf ear to this.

It all means that a team which wins its provincial championship faces sudden death in the All Ireland quarter-finals whereas a team that maybe exits its provincial series in the preliminary could conceivably reach the All Ireland final.

Tyrone is a case in point. When they won the Sam Maguire Cup for the second time in 2005 they did so by virtue of playing no fewer than 10 championship games.

Seldom in the history of the All Ireland Championship has a team played as many games before taking delivery of the title.

Indeed, Kerry captured the trophy for many years without breaking sweat in Munster before rolling through an All Ireland semi-final and then triumphing in the final — easy pickings indeed!

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