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
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3 thoughts on “The Current Value of the Provincial Football Championships

    JR said:
    June 29, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Lovely article, well written and thought out and your arguments are backed up by the facts you have obviously researched. I just have a few points that you may also want to consider.
    I believe as you alluded too that there should be far more GAA being shown on TV, however the TV stations are not the issue. The GAA itself reduced the games allowed to be shown on TV as of course #nothingbeatsbeingthere when they were worried about attendances. They did not realise that by failing to advertise their product nobody would want to go see the games (particularly young boys being spoonfed premiership and la liga along with heiniken cup)

    My biggest problem with all these new wonderful formats that give counties at least 3-7 games is simply where does the club championship come in? Do we scrap or shorten the league to fit it in? Turn the players semi-professional once they play county and have club championship without them? (Already starting to happen) For instance Sligo have only played 1 game and may end up only playing 3. It has a small club champioship yet due to the unavailability of county players only one round of club championship has been played and the next round is not due for five/6 weeks. Ridiculous to expect club players to keep training with no prospect of games.

    And finally why not eliminate the unbalanced games and just swap the league and championship altogether. Almagamate Div 1 and Div2 to Div 1a and 1b and have top two in each play in semi finals and bottom in each relegated. 3 and 4 also almagamate for tommy murphy cup with top in each promoted and play final. Play provincial championships in winter instead of league.
    Not what I’d like to see due to killing club game but would be exciting and more simplistic. Every week big matchups, and with different Throw-in times you could attend a game and watch a big clash on TV.

    GAA Corner responded:
    June 30, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    If the weaker counties do not get a chance to play against better opposition, they will stay weak. The Tommy Murphy Cup could be the All-Ireland B Championship (for 3rd/4th placed teams). The All-Ireland club championship has the same problems, i.e. the weak are perpetually weak. Your example of Sligo illustrates this. Also, “young” player fatigue is already an issue, so barring elite players from club and/or third level competitions may be an eventuality.

    […] The Current Value of the Provincial Football Championships […]

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