The All-Ireland Senior Football Championship (SFC) (Irish: Craobhchomórtas Sinsear na hÉireann sa Pheil) is the premier competition in Gaelic football. An annual tournament organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), it is contested by the county teams in All-Ireland.
|All-Ireland Senior Football Championship|
|Current season or competition:|
2021 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship
|Irish||Comórtas Shinsear Peile na hÉireann|
|Region||Ireland (31 teams)|
England (1 team)
USA (1 team)
|Trophy||Sam Maguire Cup|
|No. of teams||33|
|Title holders||Tyrone (4th title)|
|Most titles||Kerry (37 titles)|
Allied Irish Bank
|TV partner(s)||RTÉ, Sky Sports, BBC Northern Ireland,|
Eir Sports, Premier Sports,
The first tournament was held in 1887; it has been held every year since 1889. Each tournament ends with a final, played by the 35th Sunday of the year at Croke Park in Dublin, with the winning team receiving the Sam Maguire Cup.
The first Championship to be held featured club teams who represented their respective counties after their county championship. The 21 a-side final was between Commercials of Limerick and Young Irelands of Louth. The final was played in Beech Hill, Donnybrook (not Bird Avenue) on 29 April 1888 with Commercials winning by 1–4 to 0–3. Unlike later All-Ireland competitions, there were no provincial championships, and the result was an open draw.
The second Championship was unfinished owing to the American Invasion Tour. The 1888 provincial championships had been completed (Tipperary, Kilkenny and Monaghan winning them; no Connacht teams entered) but after the Invasion tour returned, the All-Ireland semi-final and final were not played. English team London reached the final four times in the early years of the competition (1900–1903).
In 1892, inter-county teams were introduced to the All-Ireland Championship. Congress granted permission for the winning club to use players from other clubs in the county, thus the inter-county teams came into being. The rules of hurling and football were also altered: goals were made equal to five points, and teams were reduced from 21 to 17 a-side.
Unlike in other European countries, such as neighbouring England, where annual sports events were cancelled during the twentieth century due to the First and Second World Wars, the All-Ireland Championship has been running continuously since 1887, with the final running since 1889 (the 1888 competition was played but no final was held due to the Invasion mentioned above). The competition continued even in spite of the effects on the country of the Civil War and the Second World War (the National Football League was not held during the latter). In 1941, the All-Ireland Championship was disrupted by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease but the postponed Leinster final were later rescheduled.
The duration of certain championship matches increased from 60 to 80 minutes during the 1970s. They were settled at 70 minutes after five seasons of this in 1975. This applied only to the provincial finals, All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.
The first half of the twentieth century brought the rise of several teams who won two or more All-Ireland titles in that period, such as Kildare, Mayo, Cavan, Wexford and Roscommon. In the 1990s, a significant sea change took place, as the All-Ireland was claimed by an Ulster team in four consecutive years (1991–1994). Since then Ulster has produced more All-Ireland winning teams than any other province.
The All-Ireland Qualifiers were introduced in 2001. Later that year, the 2001 final brought victory for Galway who became the first football team to win an All-Ireland by springing through "the back door." In 2013, Hawk-Eye was introduced for Championship matches at Croke Park. It was first used to confirm that Offaly substitute Peter Cunningham's attempted point had gone wide 10 minutes into the second half of a game against Kildare. 2013 also brought the first Friday night game in the history of the Championship – a first round qualifier between Carlow and Laois.
In recent years further changes have been made to the structure of the championship. In 2018 the Super 8s were introduced, where the four provincial champions and the four-round 4 qualifier winners would be split into two groups of four teams. Each team plays their group rivals once, with the top two teams progressing to the All-Ireland Semi-Finals. In 2020 a two-tier format will be adopted for the championship. Division 3 and 4 teams from the National Football League that fail to reach a provincial final will not proceed to the All-Ireland qualifiers and will instead play in the knockout second-tier championship.
|Team||Colours||Most recent success|
|Antrim||Saffron and white||1951|
|Armagh||Orange and white||2002||2008|
|Carlow||Red, green and gold||1944|
|Cavan||Royal blue and white||1952||2020|
|Clare||Saffron and Blue||1992|
|Cork||Red and white||2010||2012|
|Derry||Red and white||1993||1998|
|Donegal||Gold and green||2012||2019|
|Down||Red and black||1994||1994|
|Dublin||Sky blue and navy||2020||2020|
|Fermanagh||Green and white|
|Galway||Maroon and white||2001||2018|
|Kerry||Green and gold||2014||2019|
|Laois||Blue and white||2003|
|Leitrim||Green and gold||1994|
|Limerick||Green and white||1896||1896|
|London [a]||Green and white|
|Longford||Royal blue and gold||1968|
|Louth||Red and white||1957||1957|
|Mayo||Green and red||1951||2021|
|Meath||Green and gold||1999||2010|
|Monaghan||White and blue||2015|
|New York [a]||Red, white and blue|
|Offaly||White, green and gold||1982||1997|
|Roscommon||Primrose and blue||1944||2019|
|Sligo [b]||Black and white||2007|
|Tipperary||Blue and gold||1920||2020|
|Tyrone||White and Red||2021||2021|
|Waterford||White and blue||1898|
|Westmeath||Maroon and white||2004|
|Wexford||Purple and gold||1918||1945|
|Wicklow||Blue and gold|
- London and New York missed the 2020 season, and will miss the 2021 season due to the Covid pandemic – see Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Gaelic games
- Silgo missed the 2020 season due to the Covid pandemic
The county is a geographical region in Ireland, and each of the thirty-two counties in Ireland organise their own Gaelic games affairs through a County Board. The county teams play in their respective Provincial Championships (reflective of the four Irish provinces) in Connacht (which also includes teams from London and New York), Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Kilkenny is currently unique among the 32 Irish county associations in not participating in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. The Provincial Championships operate through a knock-out cup competition format. They take place during the months of May and June. The winners of each of the four Provincial Championships earn a place in the All-Ireland Super 8s, a round-robin group stage, which takes place in the months of July and August.
Each provincial championship match is played as a single leg. If a match is drawn extra time is played. However, if both sides are still level at the end of extra time a replay takes place. In the case of a provincial final if matches end level a replay takes place without extra time.
The teams that fail to win their respective provincial championships (except New York) have two potential pathways. Teams will either continue to remain alive in the championship and proceed to the All-Ireland Qualifiers or be moved to the second-tier knockout championship, the Tailteann Cup. The following teams proceed to the Qualifiers:
- Division 1 and 2 teams from that year's National Football Leagues (with the exception of the two Division 2 teams who were relegated)
- The two Division 3 teams from that year's National Football League who were promoted
- If a Division 3 or 4 teams is beaten in their provincial final, they also proceed to the Qualifiers
The remaining teams qualify for the tier 2 championship, the Tailteann Cup, which is played under a straight-knockout format.
- Round 1: Eight eligible teams play in this round, with the teams who failed to reach their provincial final drawn against another opponent. Winners progress to round 2 and losers are eliminated. A preliminary round is played before round 1 if it is necessary to reduce the number of teams to eight.
- Round 2: Eight teams play in this round, specifically the four-round 1 winners and four losing provincial finalists. Each team is drawn against one opponent and the winners progress to the All-Ireland Super 8's whilst the losers are eliminated.
- The All-Ireland Championship
- All-Ireland Super 8s: The four Provincial Champions and the winning four teams from Round 2 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers take part in a group stage that takes place in the months of July and August. The group stage is organised on a league basis with two groups of four teams, with each team playing the other three teams once. Each group consists of two Provincial Champions and two Round 4 Qualifier Winners. Each team plays one game in Croke Park, one home game and one away game. (In the case of Dublin, Croke Park is treated as the home stadium so they would play two games in Croke Park). The top two teams in both groups qualify for the All Ireland Semi-Finals.
- All-Ireland Semi-Finals: The winner of group one plays the runner-up of group two and the winner of group two plays the runner-up of group one in two All-Ireland Semi-Finals played over the course of one weekend.
- All-Ireland Final: The two remaining teams meet in the All-Ireland Final, to take place in August. The winning team is crowned All-Ireland Champions and presented with the Sam Maguire Cup.
Significant changes to the format of the Championship were made at GAA's Annual Congress in February 2017. The most significant change was the creation of The All-Ireland Quarter-Final Group Stage (known as the Super 8s), which replaced the previous Quarter-Final stage of the Championship. Additionally, the All-Ireland Final was moved to August and replays would only be held for drawn provincial finals and drawn All-Ireland Finals, with extra time to be played in all other Championship matches. The changes were to be trialled for three years before being reviewed by the GAA in late 2020.
Single-tier championship format (2018–19)Edit
This championship was identical to the format above, though with no second-tier championship all teams who failed to win their provincial final were eligible to play in the qualifiers. The qualifiers took place over four rounds rather than two, and the four winners of the fourth round proceeded to the All-Ireland Super 8s. As in the format above, the further a team progressed in their provincial championships the later the round they entered the qualifiers.
Quarter-finals format (2001–17)Edit
From 2001 to 2017, the Championship was played using the Quarter-finals format. Under this format, Provincial matches would take place during the months of May, June and July. The winners of each of the four Provincial Championships would earn a place in the All-Ireland Quarter-Finals, which would take place in the month of August. Replays would be played for all drawn matches, not just drawn Provincial Finals and drawn All-Ireland Finals. Extra-time would only be used for Replays and Qualifier Matches. If the teams were still level after extra time, the qualifier match would go to a replay or in the case of replays, another replay would take place.
The qualifiers series would take place in the months of June and July with the winning four teams of Round 4 playing the four Provincial Champions in the All-Ireland Quarter Finals.
- All-Ireland Quarter-Finals: The four Provincial Champions would be drawn against the winning four teams from Round 4 of the All-Ireland Qualifiers. If a match finished with both teams level, a replay would take place. The four winning teams qualify for the All-Ireland Semi-Finals.
- All-Ireland Semi-Finals: The All-Ireland Semi-Finals would take place in August and be contested by the four winners of the All-Ireland Quarter Finals. If a match ended with both teams level, a replay would take place. The two winning teams qualify for the All-Ireland Final.
- All-Ireland Final: The two remaining teams would meet in the All-Ireland Final, usually on the third Sunday in September. The winning team is crowned All-Ireland Champions.
Historic format (1888–2000)Edit
For the first All-Ireland championship in 1887, the competition was played on an open draw knockout basis. From 1888, the provincial system was introduced, whereby the counties in each of Ireland's four provinces would play each other on a knockout basis to find provincial champions. These four champions would meet in the All-Ireland semi-finals. The structure outlined above was adopted in 2001 to allow more games to be played, but still retain provincial championships and the knockout structure, resulting in every game continuing to be a meaningful fixture, with no dead-rubber league format matches being played out.
Typically, over the four Sundays of September, All-Ireland Finals in men's football, ladies football, hurling and camogie take place at Croke Park, the national stadium of the GAA. Two grades are played on each final day, the senior team and the minor team (consisting of younger players, under the age of 18, who have participated in that year's All-Ireland Minor Football Championship). Guests who attend these events include the President of Ireland, the Taoiseach and other important dignitaries. The football final is considered the pinnacle event of this period.
The final game of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship takes place on the third Sunday of September. The men's decider regularly attracts crowds of over 80,000. The winning team captain receives the Sam Maguire Cup. The current champions are Tyrone.
Due to COVID-19 and the related State restrictions, the 2020 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final was staged on Saturday, 19 December, two weeks after the semi-finals.
For the first time since 2000, the football championship was a sudden-death scenario, while the hurling championship – completed on Sunday, 13 December – contained a backdoor format.
|Croke Park||Semple Stadium||Gaelic Grounds||Fitzgerald Stadium|
|Capacity: 82,300||Capacity: 45,690||Capacity: 44,023||Capacity: 38,000|
|MacHale Park||St Tiernach's Park|
|Capacity: 25,369||Capacity: 29,000|
|Pearse Stadium||Páirc Uí Chaoimh||Nowlan Park||Breffni Park|
|Capacity: 26,197||Capacity: 45,000||Capacity: 27,800||Capacity: 25,030|
Records and statisticsEdit
Although Wexford were the first county to win four consecutive All-Ireland Senior Football Finals (1915–18), historically Kerry has been the most successful football team in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. As of 2020, Kerry has won the competition on 37 occasions, winning in four consecutive years twice (1929–1932 and 1978–1981) and for three consecutive years twice as well (1939–1941 and 1984–1986). Dublin follows Kerry on the competition roll of honour with 30 wins, although up to the 1950s much of the success of Dublin teams was based on teams who had many non-Dublin born players playing.
Dublin has joined the four in a row club winning the competition consecutively since 2014. As of 2019, Dublin became the first team to win the competition five times in a row. And in 2020, Dublin won a sixth consecutive title. Galway were the first team from the western province of Connacht to win an All-Ireland title, doing so in 1925. The 1933 final brought victory for Cavan, who became the first team from the northern province of Ulster to win an All-Ireland title.
Two teams have won the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship as part of a double with that year's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, namely Cork (1890 and 1990) and Tipperary (1895 and 1900). The championship has never been won by a team from outside Ireland, though London have played in five finals.
Tyrone are the reigning champions, winning their fourth title, having defeated Mayo in the 2021 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final.
- "From Sam Maguire to Dr Maguire – St Eunan's and Naomh Conaill do battle in County Final". Donegal Daily. 4 November 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
A huge crowd is expected at MacCumhaill Park at a time when Gaelic games in the county have never had a higher profile. Nothing beats being there, as the GAA slogan goes, but for the neutrals who can't be in Ballybofey, the game is live on TG4 from throw-in at 4pm.
- "The Newest All Ireland Minor Football Final Information". dailyhottrends.[permanent dead link]
- "GAA Roll of Honour". Archived from the original on 11 August 2013.
- Moran, Seán (11 September 2019). "Remembering when Kerry kicked ahead of Dublin 78 years ago: This year will be only the third replay between the counties, and the first in Croke Park". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
Dublin... hadn't won Leinster for seven years and didn't go into the All-Ireland semi-final as provincial champions – they were nominated by the province because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak that year, which caused the Leinster final against Carlow to be postponed until November. Postscript: Dublin won by 4–6 to 1–4... By this stage [the 1930s] the tendency to spread the [All-Ireland] semi-finals around the country was dying, and the 1941 replay in Tralee would be the last played outside Croke Park until 1983, when Dublin memorably went to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to take on Cork in an All-Ireland semi-final replay.
- Breheny, Martin. "The Final Verdict: The Greatest of my Lifetime" in Martin Breheny's Greatest All-Ireland Finals. Irish Independent. 1 September 2018, p. 2.
- Moran, Seán (11 September 2019). "Will time be on Dublin's side once more?". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
Another issue touched on by John O'Keeffe in his interview was the strange decision to extend senior championship provincial finals, All-Ireland semi-finals and finals to 80 minutes – which was an extra third on the previous duration of an hour. Curiously, it made little difference to the outcome of matches. Of the five finals plus 1972 replay played over 80 minutes – the length of a match was settled at 70 minutes from 1975 onwards – only the 1971 Offaly-Galway result would have been affected. Had it been played over an hour, it would have ended in a draw instead of Offaly's first All-Ireland triumph.
- Moran, Seán (26 May 2013). "Donegal hoping to avoid being fifth All-Ireland champions in 20 years to fall at first hurdle in Ulster: Uneasy lies the head that wears the northern crown". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- "GAA hopes Hawk-Eye will eliminate contentious points". RTÉ Sport. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
- "Hawkeye makes successful debut". Hogan Stand. 2 June 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- "Qualifiers include first ever Friday night game". RTÉ Sport. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
Carlow will play Laois on 28 June in Dr Cullen Park, the first time a Championship game will take place on a Friday night.
- "Two tier Football Championship format to be introduced". GAA.ie. 19 October 2019.
- "GAA Special Congress 2019: The motions explained". GAA.ie. 19 October 2019.
- "'Super 8' system to replace Senior Football Championship quarter-finals after GAA vote". RTÉ Sport. 25 February 2017.
- GAA Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "Dublin became a football force after the team went 'only Dubs need apply'". The independent. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
- "Captain's log: the voyage that foundered before Dublin discovered route forward". irishtimes.com. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
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