Month: August 2016

Proposals to re-vamp the All-Ireland Championships do nothing for the weaker counties

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There is currently a lot of debate about falling attendances, poor standards of play and “what to do” about the current All-Ireland championships. I have read the three main proposals on the table, i.e.

  • GAA Director General Paraic Duffy’s mini-National League
  • Colm Parkinson’s idea that lower tier teams should be cast aside in a separate competition

  • Conan Doherty’s proposal for ‘half a Champions League’ format

All three formats ignore the fact that lower tier teams can ONLY improve if they play top tier teams. All three formats deny lower tier teams a proper ‘home fixture’ schedule. And, all three proposals deny the lower tier teams a chance to develop their revenue streams.

The very idea that Congress is a barrier is rubbish because one half of congress = the 16 counties that year and year, decade after decade have only 2 games in the championship, i.e. beaten in the first round of their provincial championship + beaten in the first round of qualifiers.

To get Congress to pass these changes requires just 22 delegates, i.e. the 16 counties that rarely get more than 2 games per year + another 6 counties that rarely get more than 3 games. Thus, finding 22 county delegates to pass a motion at Congress is far from impossible – I would argue that it is highly likely.

  • Hurling: Only 8 counties have won an SHC in the past 50 years
    • 24 counties have not won a SHC title in 50 years
    • Kilkenny and Cork have won 33 SHC titles between them in the past 50 years
      • I believe at least 22 hurling counties will vote for change!
  • Football: Only 11 counties have won an SFC in the past 50 years
    • 21 counties have not won a SFC title in 50 years
    • Kerry and Dublin have 25 SFC titles between them in the past 50 years
      • I believe at least 22 football counties will vote for change!

The idea that provincial championships are sacred cows is also a fallacy! With Antrim and Galway now playing in Leinster,  that ship has long sailed. If the attendances at provincial championship matches is a measure of their worth, the GAA should listen to what the supporters are saying.

And, if the GAA asked the players what they really want – I am pretty sure the majority of them would say “a chance to play a top team at a top venue” and “a chance to take on a top team at home.” If the GAA bothered to ask anyone from the so-called weaker counties, they’d ALL say “fairer, more equal competitions.”

It simply is not fair to treat these counties like this, i.e. 2/3 championship games per year !

  • It is unfair to their players and coaches
  • It is unfair to their supporters
  • It is unfair to their sponsors and advertisers

Without more games + games against better opposition, weak counties STAY weak !

The GAA has a responsibility to develop their games and this = developing the weaker counties to create a more open, more entertaining championship. Pandering to the financial requirements of the top 4 counties at each code does not equate to development – it is a cowardly surrender of all that the GAA says it stands for !

If the GAA had any moral or ethical decency, it would put 4 proposals forward for Congress

  1. GAA Director General Paraic Duffy’s mini-National League
    1. keep the NL + provincial championships
    2. play a round “robin” of the Top 8 instead of QF knockout games
  2. Colm Parkinson’s proposal for A & B championships
    1. move the provincial c’ships to March
    2. move the national leagues to the summer
    3. move the All-Ireland series to the late autumn with A and B competions
  3. Conan Doherty’s proposal for ‘half a Champions League’ format
    1. get rid of the pre-season competitions: O’Byrne Cup, FBD League, etc.
    2. push the start of the league forward to January
    3. lose the Division One semi-final – top two go straight into the decider
    4. finish the league in March/early April
    5. run off a separate provincial series over four weeks
    6. new World Cup-style championship – eight groups, four teams, seeded
  4. Full Champions League format based on seedings from the National Leagues
    1. eight groups of four teams
    2. play home and away fixtures (6 games) over 12 weeks (alternating hurling/football weekends)
    3.  scores against bottom teams do not count for goal difference
    4. Top 8 go into Last 16 of “A” c’ship, with home advantage
    5. The 8 runners-up play away
    6. The 8 third-placed teams go into Last 16 of “B” c’ship, with home advantage
    7. The 8 bottom-placed teams play away
      1. The 16 weakest teams get to play at least 7 championship games
      2. The 16 weakest teams get at least 3 hurling + 3 football fixtures at HOME
      3. The 16 weakest county players and supporters get a schedule
      4. Their sponsors / advertisers get a schedule
      5. Their clubs and local businesses get 6 weekends to participate

Each format should be presented, discussed and debated.  

Each county should give its clubs and their club members a chance to vote.

Each county delegate votes in accordance with their county clubs/members’ wishes.

If anyone is interested, I have two previous articles that set out my thoughts on these changes :-

The Current Value of the Provincial Football Championships

The sponsorship divide at GAA county level can only be fixed via an open draw

How the GAA can help itself, local communities and Ireland