AS a player Cork manager Ronan McCarthy experienced both sides of the championship format-knock-out and back-door.
He’s therefore ideally placed to discuss the merits of tomorrow’s Munster semi-final showdown with old rivals Kerry at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 4pm.
It’s the first encounter between the counties in 20 years when the losers will be out of the championship, their season over.
And the former defender, who played in the 1999 All-Ireland defeat by Meath, reckons the second chance afforded teams via the qualifiers is at weaker counties’ disadvantage.
“The back door came in in 2001. We beat Kerry in 1999, when I was playing, and beat them in Munster in 2002,” he recalled recently.
“I remember being interviewed after the game, which was a semi-final, as well. Not only had we not won the Munster championship, but Kerry weren’t out of the championship either.
“My own impression was that it didn’t make a difference that there was a back door because you went at it hammer and tongs anyway.
“But, the nature of the back door is that you could end up meeting the same team again, though on this occasion if you do the job it means one less team you’d have to meet further down the road.
“As a player, I won a Munster with no back-door and I also won in a knock-out. I’d place equal value on both.
“What I would say is the back door makes it more difficult for weaker counties to make a breakthrough.
“What we want to be is considered a top-eight team and top-four as we go along.
“Then you’d have to be able to beat the Kerrys, Galways and Donegals more than once in a season to be a top team,” McCarthy added.
Cork-Kerry is the stand-out fixture tomorrow with the winners meeting either Limerick or Tipperary in the final.
That semi-final is on at lunchtime today at the Gaelic Grounds and it’s going to be equally fascinating.
Limerick are the Division 4 champions as well as the McGrath Cup holders and manager Billy Lee’s side are playing with a lot of confidence.
Last season they recorded a big win over today’s opponents, but Tipp’s fortunes received a major boost with their one-goal win over Division 2 outfit Clare a week ago.
There’s no denying Tipp, who will be in Division 3 again next season, have the potential to be a major force, but it remains to be fulfilled.
The incentive for both counties is huge, a place in a Munster final in a fortnight and while whoever emerges will be rank outsiders, qualifying for a provincial final represents progress.
That’s a word that cannot be used to describe the Connacht equivalent after Sligo conceded their semi-final to Galway because of a Covid outbreak in the squad.
It’s the backdrop to another intriguing tie tomorrow between relegated Mayo and promoted Roscommon, who have home advantage at Dr Hyde Park.
There are a couple of ways of looking at Galway’s situation now. One is that they’re just two games away from an All-Ireland final and a third from winning Sam.
The other is that they’re going in cold in the provincial final and having lost both their concluding league games against Mayo and Dublin which denied them any hope of lifting the Division 1 title.
TODAY: All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship qualifiers: Laois v Clare, Nowlan Park, 1.15; Cork v Dublin, Thurles, 3.45.
Joe McDonagh Cup: Carlow v Meath, Cullen Park, 2pm.
Leinster SFC quarter-final: Westmeath v Dublin, Portlaoise, 6.15.
Munster SFC semi-final: Limerick v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, 1.15.
Ulster SFC quarter-final: Cavan v Antrim, Breffni Park, 1.15.
Christy Ring Cup R2: Derry v Offaly, Newry.
Nickey Rickard Cup R2: Longford v Leitrim, Pearse Park; Monaghan v Tyrone, Clontibret; 1.30.
TOMORROW: Connacht SFC semi-final: Roscommon v Mayo, Dr Hyde Park, 1.30.
Leinster SFC quarter-finals: Longford v Laois, Pearse Park, 1.30; Wicklow v Meath, Aughrim, 1.30; Kildare v Offaly, Portlaoise, 5.30.
Munster SFC semi-final: Cork v Kerry, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 4pm.
Ulster SFC quarter-final: Fermanagh v Down, Brewster Park, 1.30.
Christy Ring Cup R2: Roscommon v Sligo, Athleague, 12 noon.
Lory Meagher Cup R3: Cavan v Louth, Breffni Park, 2pm.