herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Championship format in need of major re-think - watch this space!

Last weekend was a relatively quiet one on the football calendar and next Sunday's three games look like more of the same.

I've dealt with the game in Croke Park and when you scan the rest of the fixture list you will find Fermanagh host Antrim while Tipperary do likewise with Waterford. The latter four teams spent the spring leagues working out of the lower divisions with only Fermanagh able to report a positive finale with promotion before a defeat in their Division 3 final against Armagh.

It is fair to say that this championship clash in Ulster features the two weakest teams in the province and thus the early conclusion that they represented the soft side of the draw appears to be a correct one - surely Monaghan will sail directly to the final no matter the outcome on Sunday?

It puts the debate about a two-tiered championship front and centre once more. London were somewhat annoyed this week when Shane Curran, working alongside me on The Sunday Game, declared they had little to offer in the Connacht championship.

Many were quick to criticise him for his position but if you stick with the facts, it is difficult to disagree with his overall evaluation. It is only London's recent championship exploits that muddy the waters and keep in mind Galway hammered them last year.

Indeed their salad summer of 2013 was as a result of beating Leitrim and Sligo (candidates themselves for consideration when this two-tiered format is discussed). Roscommon have beaten London by an average of over 12 points in their five previous championship encounters and they ended their league season with three points and bottom of Division 4.

I'm not going to go over old ground on this matter - but let me put it this way: the hurling family came to the conclusion many years ago that not all counties can compete at the elite level; they use the Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cups to help weaker counties to develop.

discussion

Every county in Ireland realised nearly a century ago that two grades, at least, from senior to intermediate to junior were needed to cater for the various ability levels of clubs due mostly to varying populations.

Can we at least have an informed and considered discussion on the championship format? In a few weeks' time I will share a proposal myself and a friend have worked on over the past few years and see what ye think of it.

It's bold but it retains the keystones of our traditional championships. We think it can work and have briefed the GAA on its possibilities. More about the detail in the plan in June.

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