Month: June 2015

The Current Value of the Provincial Football Championships

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This weekend saw the semi-finals of the provincial championships in Gaelic Football played in front of mediocre attendances with one group of happy sponsors and another group of sponsors that were probably not as happy as they had hoped.

  • Many of the games were predictably one-sided affairs, with predictable scorelines
  • Westmeath    3-19      Meath           2-18
  • Dublin            5-18      Kildare          0-14
  • Donegal         1-9        Derry            0-10
  • Monaghan      1-20     Fermanagh   0-13

Last weekend, Cork and Kerry (deliberately kept apart in the Munster Championship draw) predictably eased past their opponents, Clare and Tipperary, respectively.

  • Yet another Cork v Kerry Munster Final – no surprises there either !
  • And yet another “sell out” crowd expected

Meanwhile, in Connacht, the two best teams in their provincial championship met in one semi-final (Mayo from NFL, Div. 1 predictably beat Galway) and in the weaker of the two semi-finals, Sligo (from the third tier of the NFL) caused a minor upset by beating Roscommon (from NFL, Div. 2).

  • But what does all of this mean?
  • Have we learned anything about the top teams?

Yes, and no !

  • Cork and Kerry will have played a competitive Munster Final
  • Donegal and Monaghan will have played in very competitive Ulster Championship
  • All four of these NFL, Div. 1 sides are genuine All-Ireland contenders
  • Mayo will probably emerge as provincial champions – for the 5th year in a row !
  • Dublin will probably emerge as provincial champions – also for the 5th year in a row !
  • Neither will have encountered a NFL, Division 1 side on their way
  • We simply will not know how good they are until they play a top tier team
    • Assuming they win their provincial championship, the All-ireland Quarter-Final will be their first genuinely competitive game
    • They will both be short of match practice compared to their opponents
    • Their opponents will have played a NFL Div. 1 side in the Championship
  • And, if their supporters are honest, they have no clue as to how competitive they will be
  • Joe Brolly thinks Dublin “are good to watch” but he hasn’t seen them play a Div. 1 side yet
Brolly: 'Dublin are a pleasure to watch' Following their easy win over Kildare, Joe Brolly was full of praise for Dublin's approach to the game.
Brolly: ‘Dublin are a pleasure to watch’ (RTE Sport/GAA, Sunday 28 June 2015)
Following their easy win over Kildare, Joe Brolly was full of praise for Dublin’s approach to the game.e.

If we were to analyse the National Football League tables and assign a value, we would perhaps be in a better position to judge how far apart the counties in the lower leagues are from the top tier. Now I know people always say … wait ’til the championship to see the real deal … but the provincial championships are, in my opinion ‘not fit for purpose’ anymore.

The fans know this, the sponsors know this and the GAA knows this.

If we ‘invert’ the finishing place in the NFL with a score out of 32, we see Cork with a score of  32, Dublin with a score of 31, Monaghan with a score of 30, etc. … right down to London (who finished 32nd) with a score of 1. Then multiply these scores by 10 to get a rating.

This gives us the following table.

National Football League, Div. 1
Rank County Rating
1 CORK 320
2 DUBLIN 310
3 MONAGHAN 300
4 DONEGAL 290
5 MAYO 280
6 KERRY 270
7 TYRONE 260
8 DERRY 250
National Football League, Div. 2
Rank County Rating
9 DOWN 240
10 ROSCOMMON 230
11 MEATH 220
12 GALWAY 210
13 CAVAN 200
14 LAOIS 190
15 WESTMEATH 180
16 KILDARE 170
National Football League, Div. 3
Rank County Rating
17 FERMANAGH 160
18 ARMAGH 150
19 TIPPERARY 140
20 SLIGO 130
21 CLARE 120
22 LIMERICK 110
23 LOUTH 100
24 WEXFORD 90
National Football League, Div. 4
Rank County Rating
25 LONGFORD 80
26 OFFALY 70
27 ANTRIM 60
28 LEITRIM 50
29 CARLOW 40
30 WATERFORD 30
31 WICKLOW 20
32 LONDON 10

If we sort this table by province, and average the ratings, we see which provincial championship is strongest … and by how much. The results are quite revealing.

Province Rank Football Rating
Ulster 212
Munster 165
Connacht 152
Leinster 134
In terms of a competitive provincial championship, we see Ulster quite far ahead due to the fact that most of their counties play in either NFL, Div. 1 or 2. Leinster is the least competitive because most play in NFL, Div. 3 or 4.
In terms of a competitive provincial championship, we see Ulster quite far ahead due to the fact that most of their counties play in either NFL, Div. 1 or 2. Leinster is the least competitive because most play in NFL, Div. 3 or 4.

I believe the only way to break this mould is to scrap the un-balanced provincial championships and run an All-Ireland Championships based on an open, seeded draw with 8 groups of 4 counties.

  • The seedings would be based on National Football League finishing places
  • The ‘Top 8’ in the NFL would be kept apart (like Cork and Kerry already are in Munster)
  • All teams are guaranteed a minimum of 7 games per summer
  • This will appeal to the fans, the sponsors and local businesses in all 32 counties
  • Playing 2 games against Div.1 side + 2 games against a Div. 2 side will benefit the Div. 3 & 4 sides
  • This is the only way Div. 3 & 4 squads will improve at ALL-Ireland Championship level
  • Playing on muddy pitches in front of small crowds in cold, wet weather in the NFL is not what players aspire to. They are, no doubt, proud to wear their county jersey no matter when or where they play, but they deserve more from the GAA.
    • Their fans deserve more
    • And their sponsors deserve more

And there are now more than enough TV channels to televise all of the games at all of the venues throughout May, June and July.

  • I’d also recommend playing the Junior and Intermediate competitions as a ‘curtain raiser’ for each senior game – these teams deserve an audience and the same venue on the same day as the SF teams.

Last week I read an article from a leading newspaper complaining that Wicklow football fans only got 6½ minutes of highlights on RTE and how unfair this was.

  • It did not reflect the 7 months of hard training put in by the Wicklow players and mentors
  • It seems crazy that after 1 game in Leinster and 1 qualifier, Wicklow’s season is over
  • It doesn’t give Wicklow GAA players, fans or sponsors much hope for the future
  • And, most importantly, it does little for the juvenile players

Other articles supporting the idea of an open, seeded draw for the All-Ireland Championships:


For those of you who are interested, I include my provincial ratings and how I calculated my average rating for each provincial championship. It makes grim reading for Dubs fans and illustrates how weak the Leinster Senior Football Championship really is.

  • Provincial finalists are shown in red text
    • Would it benefit Dublin and Mayo to lose their provincial finals and get a ‘competitive match’ before a potential quarter-final game?

Ulster SF Championship

Rank County Rating Province
3 MONAGHAN 300 U
4 DONEGAL 290 U
7 TYRONE 260 U
8 DERRY 250 U
9 DOWN 240 U
13 CAVAN 200 U
17 FERMANAGH 160 U
18 ARMAGH 150 U
27 ANTRIM   60 U
                                                    Average = 212

Munster SF Championship

Rank County Rating Province
1 CORK 320 M
6 KERRY 270 M
19 TIPPERARY 140 M
21 CLARE 120 M
22 LIMERICK 110 M
30 WATERFORD   30 M
                                                    Average = 165

Connacht SF Championship

Rank County Rating Province
5 MAYO 280 C
10 ROSCOMMON 230 C
12 GALWAY 210 C
20 SLIGO 130 C
28 LEITRIM   50 C
32 LONDON   10 C
                                                     Average = 152

Leinster SF Championship

Rank County Rating Province
2 DUBLIN 310 L
11 MEATH 220 L
14 LAOIS 190 L
15 WESTMEATH 180 L
16 KILDARE 170 L
23 LOUTH 100 L
24 WEXFORD   90 L
25 LONGFORD   80 L
26 OFFALY   70 L
29 CARLOW   40 L
31 WICKLOW   20 L
                                                    Average = 134

How the GAA can help itself, local communities and Ireland

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This is the season within seasons …

  • its the championship season for both hurling and football
    • every village in Ireland has its bunting up in support of their team
    • everyone is talking about “their chances this year”
    • but half of the counties are already bemoaning their early exits
  • its already the height of the tourism season
    • and every village is freshly painted, with fresh flower beds and signs
    • everyone is talking about the Tidy Towns competition
    • and their hopes for their “business prospects this year”

Fáilte Ireland have announced record figures for visitors, so someone must be making money. But the only ‘downer’ is the early exits from the championships for 16 of the 32 counties … and 8 will be out completely after the first round of qualifiers !

Its just not good enough … its usually the same 16 counties each year !

  • In football, 13 counties have never won an All-Ireland SF Championship
  • In hurling, 21 counties have never won an All-Ireland SH Championship
  • And its unlikely to change as only the successful counties attract BIG sponsorship
  • And attendances are unlikely to increase either

So, the GAA have to do something about it and they have to do it now … while they still have the power to do so because sometime very soon, the big-spending TV sponsors and their advertisers will be telling them what to do, how to do it, when to do it and where to do it !

By having a champions league format of 8 groups of 4, seeded by National League position, the GAA could guarantee each county 14 competitive games per championship season (7 in each code).

  • This would give the players something to look forward to
  • This would give the fans of the less successful counties something better
  • A guarantee of 6 home games (3 in each code) would give local business something too
    • And the local sponsors
    • And the tourists
    • And the TV channels and their advertisers

The seeding would re-invigorate the National Leagues and running an All-Ireland B competition for the 3rd/4th placed teams would give them a guaranteed seventh game – 3rd placed teams in the groups play at home.

  • The chance of winning an “All-Ireland B” title would, in my opinion, more than make up for the demise of the provincial championships where some counties can play 2 games and call themselves champions.

What can we do ?

  • GAA club secretaries should write into GAA HQ requesting a change
  • GAA county boards should do likewise
  • Every GAA fan in the country (and abroad) should email them here
  • Then share this post on Facebook, Twitter and any other social media platform you can think of