The 2003 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship was won by Tyrone in a landmark All-Ireland final, the first to be contested by two teams from the same province: Tyrone and Armagh - both from Ulster. It was also a year that marked a peak in Ulster dominance on the All-Ireland stage, with three teams (the finalists and Donegal) reaching the semi finals. The top scorer of the year, by a big margin, was Tyrone's Peter Canavan, with a personal tally of 1-48 (51 points). Armagh's Steven McDonnell was named Player of the Year for his accuracy in getting goals, and a final tally of 5-23.
The provincial championships in Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht were run as usual on a "knock-out" basis. These provincial games were then followed by the "Qualifier" system:
Round 1 of the qualifiers included all the counties (except New York) that did not qualify for the Provincial Semi-Finals. An open draw was made to give eight pairings.
Round 2 consisted of the eight defeated teams in the Provincial Semi-Finals playing against the eight winners from Round 1. A draw was made to determine the eight pairings.
Round 3 consisted of the eight winners from Round 2. Another open draw was made to determine the four pairings.
Round 4 consisted of the four winners from Round 3 playing against the beaten Provincial finalists. A draw was made to determine the pairings.
The All-Ireland Quarter-Finals: Each of the four Provincial Champions played one of the four winners from Round 4. The All-Ireland Semi-Finals were played on a Provincial rota basis, initially determined by the Central Council. If a Provincial Championship winning team was defeated in its Quarter-Final, the team that defeated it took its place in the Semi-Final.