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
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|
|National Football League, Div. 2|
|National Football League, Div. 3|
|National Football League, Div. 4|
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|
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:
- How the GAA can help itself, local communities and Ireland
- The sponsorship divide at GAA county level can only be fixed via an open draw
- Re-vamp the All-Ireland Championships and National League Competitions
- Economic benefits of re-vamping the National League & All-Ireland Championship ?
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
Munster SF Championship
Connacht SF Championship
Leinster SF Championship