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GAA All-Ireland Football Championship: A full explainer on how it works

| 16.05.2018

One of the staples of the Irish summer is the GAA All-Ireland Football Championship as 32 counties battle it out for the Sam Maguire trophy.

The tournament has taken place every year since 1887 with hundreds of thousands of fans filling grounds around the Emerald Isle to watch their counties play.

After years of the status quo, the powers-that-be at GAA headquarters have made radical changes to the format.

The Ladbrokes News crew have put together a guide to how it all works, and who are the favourites to win.

How does it work?

It all kicks off with the provincial championships. There are four provinces – Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht.

Each province has its own tournament with each county within the province placed in a draw and then paired off against each other.

It’s a knockout mini-tournament, whittled down to two teams who meet in the provincial final. The winners of the four provincial finals automatically make the All-Ireland quarter-finals.


The sides that lose in each round of their provincial championships all go into The All-Ireland Qualifiers. It’s also known as ‘the back door’.

There are four rounds of qualifiers, played in a knock-out format. If you win, you’re through to the next round. At the end of the fourth round, there are just four sides remaining.

Four sides then go into the quarter-finals alongside the winners of the original provincial championships.

Super 8s

The Super 8s – also known as the All-Ireland Quarter-Finals – is played in a league format between the eight county teams across July and August.

You then have two groups of four, consisting of two provincial champions, and two qualifiers. The top two teams in both groups qualify for the All-Ireland Semi-Finals.

Semi-Finals and Final

The winner of group one plays the runner-up of group two, and vice versa until there are two sides left.

Two remaining teams then meet in the All-Ireland Final, to take place at Croke Park on the first weekend in September.

The winning team is crowned All-Ireland Champions and presented with the Sam Maguire Cup.

This year’s favourites?

Dublin are aiming to retain their title and win their fourth All-Ireland in a row. To make it simple for non-GAA fans, Jim Gavin’s side are the Manchester City of Gaelic football.

The boys in blue are just 4/6 to win this year’s championship, with Kerry way out at 5/1. To keep the Premier League similes going, the Munster team are the Manchester United of All-Ireland football.

Galway (8/1), Tyrone (10/1), Mayo (12/1) – losing finalists in the last two years – and Donegal (20/1) form the most likely of the chasing pack.

The Dubs look incredibly strong again this year and could canter to a 28th All-Ireland title.

Click here for more GAA Championship odds



Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.