Is the back-door system best for football?

Updated: Tuesday, 02 Jul 2013 16:06 | Comments

Offaly's heavy defeat to Tyrone prompted a debate on whether the current qualifier system is best for football
Offaly's heavy defeat to Tyrone prompted a debate on whether the current qualifier system is best for football

Should the All-Ireland format be changed or is the current system delivering the best possible Championship?

Offaly’s hammering at the hands of Tyrone on Sunday prompted Kevin McStay to become the latest voice to propose an alternative solution when he outlined an alternative Championship divided into Senior, Intermediate and Junior grades on 'The Sunday Game'.

In McStay’s proposed format, the top 16 counties would contest a Senior All-Ireland with two lower grades hosting competitions for the rest of the teams in divisions of equal size.

Such a format might well have meant that Offaly and Tyrone would not have met at all.

Open draw systems have also been proposed in the past and, the very first All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in 1887 was played in that format.

A year later, the provincial system was introduced, with each of the four provinces producing one All-Ireland semi-finalist per year. That continued until 2001’s introduction of the ‘back door’, with Galway becoming ‘back door’ Champions that same year.

The current system, which sees a four-round qualifier competition running alongside the provincial Championships before the two merge at the quarter-final stage, was introduced in 2008.

Critics of the back door say it strengthens the hand of the stronger counties, allowing them to slip up and taking the punishment out of defeat in the early stages.

That argument is bolstered by the fact that six of the 12 All-Ireland championships have been won via the back-door since 2001.

The open-draw would reward 'giant-killing' and, in theory at least, allow smaller counties to go on a run towards the upper echelons.

The fourth option is 'Champions League' format which would see counties divided into groups with each producing quarter-finalists. Support for this format is high among intercounty players according to the GPA, though there is no consensus and many also favour retaining provincial Championships.

So, what do you think? Should the All-Ireland continue to be contested in a format similar to the one that is in place now, or should an open draw, 'Champions League' or divisional structure be put in place?

Let us know in the comments, or cast your vote below.

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