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Dublin: -2°C Saturday 17 April 2021

Explainer: How free-taking shootouts could be needed as 2018 All-Ireland football qualifiers start this weekend

The eight games in the opening stage of the qualifiers take place this weekend.

O'Connor, McAliskey, Feely and Heslin all in action this weekend.
O'Connor, McAliskey, Feely and Heslin all in action this weekend.
Image: INPHO

THIS WEEKEND SEES the opening set of qualifiers in the 2018 All-Ireland senior football championship with seven games down for decision on Saturday and the meeting of London against Louth scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

What is certain is that by Sunday we will have the identity of the eight teams from Round 1 who will be keeping an eye on next Monday morning’s Round 2 draw.

That’s because the new GAA championship regulations are kicking in for the qualifiers which means there must be a result on the day and there won’t be any prospect of replays.

Round 1 Fixtures


Wexford v Waterford, Innovate Wexford Park, 2pm

Derry v Kildare, Owenbeg, 3pm

Meath v Tyrone, Navan, 5pm

Wicklow v Cavan, Aughrim, 6pm

Limerick v Mayo, Gaelic Grounds, 6pm

Offaly v Antrim, Tullamore, 6pm

Westmeath v Armagh, TEG Cusack Park, 7pm


London v Louth, Ruislip, 2pm

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A general view of McGovern Park Ruislip hosts Sunday's encounter. Source: Gerry McManus/INPHO

If teams are level after normal time in this weekend’s qualifier ties, two periods of ten minutes of extra-time will be played.

If still level after that, a further two periods of five minutes will be played. This phase will be considered an extension of extra-time rather than a new period, meaning a team reduced to 14 men in the first period of extra-time, must start that second phase with only 14 players.

If it’s still level after that second period, a free-taking competition will take place to decide the winner.

So how will the free-taking competition work? Well, it has come into play already this year in the O’Byrne Cup semi-final between Meath and Longford in January, along with the hurling league quarter-final clash of Limerick and Clare in March.

Colin Ryan scores the winning free Colin Ryan scores the winning free during March's game between Limerick and Clare. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Here’s a reminder of the format for football:

  • Each team will nominate five free-takers and indicate to the referee in which order (1-5) they will take frees. Players who have received a red or black card during the game are not permitted to take frees.
  • The frees in football will be kicked from the centre line marking the semi-circle (33m) from the hands or off the ground. Only points will count.
  • Only the players involved in the free-taking shootout - as well as the referee, linesmen and two umpires – are allowed on the the pitch.
  • If the teams are still tied after five frees, sudden death kicks in and will involve the same five players in order.
  • If a player scores in sudden death and his direct opponent misses, the game is awarded to the team of the player who has scored.
  • The sudden death element will continue until such time as there is a definite outcome, returning to the first player and repeating the sequence again if required.

The eight winners of this weekend’s games advance to Round 2, which will take place on Saturday 23 June.

The draw for that will take place next Monday morning on RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland programme with the eight Round 1 winners playing off against the eight beaten provincial semi-finalists.

  • Connacht – Leitrim, Sligo.
  • Leinster – Carlow/Laois, Dublin/Longford.
  • Munster – Tipperary, Clare.
  • Ulster – Monaghan, Donegal/Down.

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Fintan O'Toole

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