The opening rounds of this year’s championship took place last weekend and already, several counties have been eliminated from their provincial championship and face a back-door ficture that might end their season with just 2 games played.
Is this what they trained for? All those wet, windy nights in January, February and March … 2 championship games?
I believe its time for change. Should we be thinking about rewarding the winners of each division of the National Leagues (and those promoted to higher divisions) with a ‘seeding’ in a re-vamped All-Ireland Championship?
The National Leagues have traditionally been a testing ground for the stronger counties – the mantra from Kerry football fans and Kilkenny hurling fans has always been “its only the League, it’ll be a different story come the Championship”.
Well, its about time the League gained more status and, by that, I mean become a seeding competition for the All-Ireland Championships.
If the top 8 places were top seeds, the next 8 second seeds, the next 8 third seeds and the next 8 bottom seeds, we’d have 8 groups of four for the Championship – with each team playing home and away. Between hurling and football, every county would have 6 big weekends in June/July and have a chance to play a top team twice a season!
When is the last time a team from Clare, Leitrim, London or Waterford played football against the Dubs at Croke Park?
Have Antrim, Carlow, Leitrim, London or Wicklow ever played football against Cork at mighty Páirc Uí Chaoimh, or against Tipperary in the magnificent Semple Stadium?
In hurling, have Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tyrone or Warwickshire ever played against Kilkenny or Tipperary or Cork? If we are to ever get these teams to improve, they must be allowed to play against top class opposition on a regular basis.
Clare and Tipperary footballers won promotion this year to Div 3 of the NFL. Congratulations to each squad on their achievement but wouldn’t it be nice for them if they were to host a top team from another province in June/July?
What’s the point of building a motorway all the way from Dublin to Ennis (via Limerick) if the sky blue horde can’t invade the place for a weekend in June?
Think of the extra business it would mean for publicans, hoteliers and restaurateurs in Donegal, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tyrone and Warwickshire if they were to host hurling fans from Kilkenny or Tipperary or Cork?
Taking London and Warwickshire as an example of how to spread the game abroad, think of the thousands Kilkenny or Tipperary or Cork diaspora that live in or near London and Warwickshire that would love to see their native counties play hurling there. This would develop a whole new market for the GAA.
Think about how many Leinster, Munster and Ulster rugby fans are based in England and rarely, if ever, see their teams play at home. Then think about the great atmosphere they help create at the away games. The GAA could truly become international in terms of both fans and players.
Would London GAA fill Wembly or Twickenham for a hurling championship match against Cork, Kilkenny or Tipperary?
Would London GAA fill one of these stadiums for a football championship game versus Dublin, Kerry or Mayo?
We were all amazed at how Leinster and Munster filled Croke Park for a rugby match – wouldn’t it be great if two Gaelic football teams or two hurling teams did the same in London at the HQ of another sport???
A European Champions League format would be very exciting and generate lots of extra cash for the GAA.
For a more in-depth view of the many sporting, social and economic benefits, see my blog post at https://gaacorner.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/unlocking-the-full-potential-of-the-all-ireland-championships-and-national-league-competitions-2/