Focus shifts to next year with tonight's championship draw


NEWS ROUND-UP:IT SEEMS Donegal are only wrapping up their All-Ireland homecoming, and Kilkenny are only in the midst of theirs, and yet with this evening’s draw for the 2013 championship comes the sudden if not inevitable shift in focus towards next year.

All four provinces will be staging their respective draws at GAA headquarters (live on RTÉ 2, from 7.30pm), although the first headline is likely to come from Ulster, and who will first face-off against the defending All-Ireland football champions Donegal.

What is certain is manager Jim McGuinness would rather not be drawn in the preliminary round for the third successive year, not that it did Donegal any harm: this year they become the first county to successfully defend their Ulster title despite playing in the preliminary round on both occasions, beating Antrim in 2011 and Cavan this year.

Ulster doesn’t seed counties, which means anyone can be drawn to play in the preliminary round.

In Leinster, Dublin will be one of four seeded counties as defending provincial football champions, along with Kildare, Wexford, and Meath – and will thus go straight into the quarter-finals.

However, having surrendered their Leinster hurling title to Galway, Kilkenny won’t be the seeded team in the 2012 Leinster hurling championship, which will see Galway go straight into the semi-finals.

But despite some enduring calls for a change in the championship format, there won’t be a whole lot different about what is drawn up in Croke Park this evening.

“It is essentially the same format as recent years,” explained the GAA’s director of communications, Lisa Clancy. “We’ll have each of the provincial secretaries in Croke Park, and there’ll be six draws, the four provincial football championships, and the two provincial hurling championships.

“Once the draw is done that sets in motion the process of agreeing the dates and venues, plus the television coverage, which all makes up the master fixture list, which should be completed by the end of the month.”

One of the alterations to the process agreed last year is that before the provincial councils set their schedules, the TV rights holders will first state their preferred live matches, thereby reducing the likelihood of having some of the bigger games conflicting with each other.

But the GAA’s Central Council still face the unenviable task of bringing together the master fixture list, which includes the football and hurling league fixtures, plus the various underage competitions.

In Munster, defending football champions Cork may or may not face old rivals Kerry before the provincial final: there was speculation the Munster Council would revert to the seeded draw, effectively keeping Cork and Kerry apart until the provincial football final.

The seeded option appeared to have the backing of Munster council chairman Seán Walsh, although this failed to get the support from other counties.

Speculation, too, that Laois would opt out of the Liam MacCarthy Cup next year and play in the second tier Christy Ring Cup instead never materialised.

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