The question of whether the back door is harmful for the provincial champions is one constantly bandied about. Opponents of the back door will point in recent times to Armagh’s experience, champions of Ulster in four of the last five years and yet not even a final appearance to show for it in the main event. They’ve also seen Sam carried off by three back door teams, most gallingly seeing Tyrone do it in 2005 and 2008. So it will be interesting to see how they react to today’s football qualifier draw, which has seen Armagh draw the utter stinker of Monaghan away. And God knows what hand grenade awaits them in the next phase should they overcome Monaghan. With Tyrone looking forward to the winners of Cavan and Antrim, no prizes for guessing which is the happier county at the moment.
This debate also has its hurling counterpart, and the fate of Clare should provide a sharp counterpoint. The same people who think the back door is an easier router to the McCarthy Cup would no doubt be suggesting that Clare would be pleased to lose to Tipperary today. Having given a fine performance that would have shaken off any post-League blues, they could now look forward to a serene trip through the qualifiers. Then out come the one team that seem to be able to routinely put it up to Kilkenny. At least they’ll have home advantage, but Tipp have a Munster final to look forward to and still have their get-out-of-jail-free card.
Things could be worse for Clare. There are more middling-to-bad teams in the football qualifiers than good ones, so the odds should have been in Waterford’s favour to have a decent draw. Despite their recent decline, Meath are not ideal opponents, especially away from home. After being put in the same half of the draw in Munster as Kerry and Cork, Waterford might ponder that if it weren’t for bad luck they’d have no luck at all.