Monday 24 October 2016

Divide between haves and have nots clearer than ever

Following Armagh's crushing defeat at the hands of Donegal and Tipperary's meek exit from the Munster championship to Kerry, the recurring theme last weekend was that the lack of intensity experienced by the teams in the bottom two divisions of the league, left them badly exposed when they came up against superior Division 1 opponents.

As we hit mid-Summer a quick glance around the provinces identifies that only two representatives remain from the bottom two tiers, Fermanagh and Sligo, both of whom are in action this weekend. Pete McGrath's side face Monaghan in an Ulster semi-final while Sligo, courtesy of a bye, square up to Division 1 new boys Roscommon in their last-four encounter in Markievicz Park.

With results to date showing that not a single team from a lower division has managed to claim the scalp of a team a league above them, the odds appear to be stacked against the Division 3 representatives and offers further proof, were it needed, of the lopsided nature of the provincial system.

While the safety net of the All-Ireland qualifiers provides a chance at redemption, from a marketing point of view trying to sell practically a re-run of the Division 4 fixture list this weekend as high octane champions matches is, to put it mildly, a difficult sell for the GAA.

As with most years, a surprise package will almost inevitably emerge from the ashes of the early rounds of the provincial series. Despite operating in the third tier of the national football league Cavan reached an All-Ireland SFC quarter-final with Kerry in 2013.

But as players put more and more time and effort into representing their counties, the exception to the rule as a means of justifying four teams folding up their tents for another year at this early stage of the summer, is daft in the extreme with respect to promoting the game to the next generation in arguably the counties that need the greatest exposure.

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