2018 GAA football championship: new structures
All you need to know about new format that begins three-year trial this summer
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts Sam Maguire after beating Mayo in the All Ireland senior football championship final at Croke Park, Dublin, last year. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
The biggest changes arguably ever in the GAA’s football championship history begin a three-year trial this summer. Based on proposals by retired GAA director general Páraic Duffy, the format is intended to address the need to refresh and improve the championship, as well as to shorten the season in order to create additional weekends for club activities.
Introducing a round-robin format at the quarter-final stage provides more fixtures for players and spectators and also means that all counties will have the same five-step programme to an All-Ireland after the asymmetric provincial championships.
Tightening the calendar will have an impact on broadcast schedules, as for the first time the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals will clash with their football equivalent, on the first weekend of the round robin.
There will be a similar problem on the final weekend of the football group matches, as throw-ins will have to be at the same time in either group, which will require broadcasters to allocate another channel if they wish to cover both.
All-Ireland football championship 2018
– There is no change to the structure of the provincial football championships and qualifiers. These will proceed as usual: knock-out format in the provinces and the qualifiers to feature in round one, the 16 teams eliminated up to provincial semi-finals; round two, the eight winners against the beaten provincial semi-finalists; round three the eight winners drawn against each other; round four, the four winners against the defeated provincial finalists.
– In rounds one, two and three of the qualifiers, counties from the 2018 AFL Divisions Three and Four drawn against opposition from Divisions One and Two shall have automatic home advantage.
– The four winners of round four will as previously qualify for the last eight of the All-Ireland championship along with the provincial champions.
– Instead of this stage being conducted as four knock-out quarter-finals, it will be organised as two round-robin groups of four.
– The top two in each group will contest the All-Ireland semi-final on a 1st v 2nd basis.
All-Ireland quarter-final group stage
Group Two: 1. Ulster champions, 2. Leinster champions, 3. Munster runners-up or qualifier, 4. Connacht runners-up or qualifier.
Based on 2017 quarter-finalists, these would be the fixtures, dates and venues
Phase Two: Monaghan v Roscommon, Clones, Armagh v Kerry, Athletic Grounds, Mayo v Dublin, Castlebar, Galway v Tyrone, Pearse Stadium (21st and 22nd July).
Phase Three: Kerry v Monaghan, Killarney, Roscommon v Armagh, Dr Hyde Park, Tyrone v Mayo, Omagh, Dublin v Galway, Croke Park. (August 4th and 5th, group matches to have simultaneous throw-in times).
– This year’s All-Ireland finals will be earlier with the hurling being played on August 19th and the football on September 2nd.
– In order to accommodate a busier season in a shorter period of time, there will be limitations on replays, with only provincial and All-Ireland finals going to replays after 70 minutes. Qualifier matches will be decided on the day with two 20-minute periods of extra time followed by two more of five minutes if the teams are still level. In the event of the match still ending in a draw, there would be a shoot-out: five shots from 65 metres in hurling and from 33 metres in football.