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Congress to discuss proposed changes to home qualifiers

By John Campbell

Former Down secretary Brian McAvoy has framed a motion which he hopes will see the All-Ireland Football qualifiers streamlined in the future.

The motion will be tabled by Down delegates at Congress later this month and McAvoy is hopeful that it will be adopted.

McAvoy's club Burren, who were All-Ireland champions in 1986 and 1988, is giving its full backing to the motion which is among the more interesting on the Congress programme.

"I believe that there are anomalies in the format of the qualifiers and I would hope that the adoption of this motion will go some way towards eradicating these," points out McAvoy.

The motion urges that home venues should be used in rounds one, two and three of the qualifiers, with the first team drawn having home advantage.

It also suggests that where two teams have already met in a provincial championship and are drawn to meet again, the winner of the provincial championship game shall have home advantage.

The only exception will be if a county did not have home advantage in the first round of the previous year's qualifiers, it shall have home advantage in the first round of the current year's series.

If the two counties in a pairing did not have home advantage in the first round of the previous year's qualifiers, a toss would determine which county will have home advantage in the current year's series.

The All-Ireland qualifiers have been the subject of much more debate recently, with factions within the GAA seeking an end to the competition. There is still considerable dissatisfaction that provincial champions are not afforded a second bite at the cherry should they lose at the All-Ireland quarter-finals stage.

"This has been a bone of contention for some time but would be a separate issue. The qualifiers still have a role to play in the overall championship format. It would seem ridiculous that some teams should see their season end in the month of May," declares McAvoy.

Central Council is hoping to remedy what is an ongoing source of frustration within the Association by tabling a motion calling for a public time clock to be brought into use at Croke Park and all other grounds which host provincial and All-Ireland matches.

Controversy has raged for years over what teams and followers believe to have been inaccurate time-keeping by referees.

In more recent years, a sideline official formally displays on an illuminated sign the number of minutes to be played over and above the regulation 70 minutes at all inter-county matches.

While this has helped to iron out some difficulties, there is still a feeling that the deployment of a public time-clock will determine precisely just when a game should end.

It would also mean that referees, who are often under tremendous pressure, will be freed from the burden of this element of time-keeping.

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