herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Kevin McStay

A FEW weeks back we analysed the championship results for 2015 and concluded the early rounds are little more than a sorting out process.

And then we floated a new structure that might attend to the inherent problems with the old provincial super structure. And finished with two bold enough predictions: (1) the hammerings were over for this season at least and (2) the background noise about new championship formats, Champions League style play-offs and the like would gently wash away.

It turns out I was wrong on both fronts. Last weekend saw the playing of seven reasonably attractive football championship games and with the championship now well into June, the disparity in standards and winning margins was expected to narrow.

Not so alas, the games produced a cumulative winning margin of 57 points or an average of just over eight points per game.

I was parked early and really looking forward to the game of the championship in Armagh City as the favourites Donegal rode into town and the prospect of an upset very much on the minds of the locals. That prospect lasted perhaps no more than 10 minutes as Donegal coldly, clinically and ruthlessly tossed the Armagh challenge to one side and headed back to the hills with a handsome nine point drubbing.

Cork (+12 pts), Kerry (+6pts), Mayo (+4 points), Westmeath (+9 points), Meath (+4 points) and Kildare (+13 points) made up the remainder of the winning teams and margins and so, ultimately, no real championship game was on offer. Though Tipperary, Galway and Wicklow had a real cut I think it is fair to suggest that upsets just were not on the cards.

Indeed to underline the predictable nature of the championship to date, I am happy to report another weekend of 100 per cent accuracy in the prediction stakes.

Now before you all start harping back to mid-April and my NFL Round 6 offerings, where, of the eight games down for decision in the top two divisions I failed to get a single result correct allow me to state: that's the league for you!

SPLASH

Last weekend represented my third week in a row of championship tips and another 'Full House'. It's a pity I don't splash out with the bookies - I even changed horses in the Kildare v Laois game and went for Kildare to win the replay. So, so predictable even I can figure them out!

And the idea of new championship formats? Well, they've come thick and fast too and most of them appear to have been very much cooking away in the background these past couple of years; in other words, well considered, informed and with lots of potential.

The GPA announced a work in progress; Jim McGuiness announced a completed work and our own one provoked plenty of positive reaction around the country too.

All of them have flaws but none are insurmountable if they take cognisance of two indivisible realities (1) the provincial system must stay, its traditional place at the top table of the summer months can in no way be demeaned and (2) every county must be allowed take part on day one and earn the right to stay in the Race for Sam, then, they have a chance.

Dessie Farrell's GPA proposal is perhaps too much too soon. He states: "My personal view again is that any changes that come about that still retain the provincial structure are only moving the deck chairs around" and he has a point of course. But it avoids the realities of GAA political life and so it will sink to the bottom.

A couple of weeks back I was reliably informed that a survey of players from the, here comes the respectful title that of course is anything but, "so-called weaker counties" are happy enough for the status quo to continue. Can this be true? Really?

I liked the Jim McGuiness proposal and took out the pencil and paper to work my way through it. If it has a major flaw, I would suggest it is the reduction in status of the provincial championships - that will be the Achilles heel of his format.

It should be obvious that given proper conditions where the best four teams in each province are matched off, the provincial games still have a massive attraction. Look back at the Armagh versus Donegal and Galway versus Mayo build up, hype and actual attendances. More work to be done then before we get closer to the solution

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