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Qualifiers log-jam looms on horizon yet again

By John Campbell

Even the best laid plans can go astray. The GAA could discover this when the 2008 All Ireland Football Championship rolls out.

Already there is grave concern that, rather than offering a more streamlined fixture menu, the competition may merely replicate the log-jam that has been an ongoing feature of recent seasons.

The All Ireland Qualifiers are due to commence on July 19 and will be played over the course of the following three week-ends.

Teams who progress will have cause for satisfaction, of course - but only up to a point.

For the All Ireland quarter-finals are due to be played off immediately the Qualifiers are completed meaning that teams could find themselves in championship action on four successive week-ends in peak season.

Croke Park Player Welfare Manager Paraic Duffy is among those who have been campaigning for a better structured championship itinerary but the indications right now are that congestion is on the horizon.

Team managers have complained bitterly in the past when their teams were forced to play qualifier games almost as soon as their teams exited provincial championships and although the fixtures think-tank has been working hard to try and alleviate potential problems, the qualifiers may throw up a thorny issue if the timetable as laid down is adhered to.

And there is some concern in Leinster that Croke Park will not now be available to host a potential provincial championship double-header on June 1 because of the Celine Dion concert at Headquarters on May 30.

Leinster officials would obviously like to see the matches played at Croke Park but now they look certain to be fixed for other venues.

The Celine Dion concert, like other similar events, can net something like €1m for the GAA but there is nonetheless an element of disenchantment that Croke Park is not available for major matches at the height of the championship season.

Belfast Telegraph

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