Radical Championship Overhaul
August 17, 2010
Curently there is a lot of debate about finding a way to give Provincial Champions a second bite at the cherry under the present “back-door championship format” but I feel that the whole system, since it has been introduced, has only helped the stronger teams as the overall results have shown. True, it has bought some of the lesser counties a lot more playing time but the height of achievement for them has been a last eight berth in the championship.
The retention of the Provincial championship and the revenue it generates is of paramount importance to the GAA but it also very important in keeping the traditional rivalries which have been the lifeblood of the association since its inception flowing.
Keeping all that in mind I am throwing out there a proposal which is sure to cause some debate but is aimed at injecting new life into a format which no longer appeals, or is fair, given the imbalance in standards within the respective Provinces.
NO NATIONAL LEAGUE
My proposal begins with the doing away of the secondary competition, the National League which is not treated with the same respect by counties as it should be. Dwindling league figures also show the lack of spectator interest in this competition as patrons are expected to pay to see what are, on the whole, second string teams in action.
Adding London to the Connacht championship make the ideal 33 participants (New York lose out but provision for 2 matches annually for them is included in a different competition).
PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP RETAINED
My year would start with the Provincial championship being played in group stages with three counties in each group. Each county would play each other home and away (4 games each). The top two teams in each group in Munster and Connacht would reach the semi-finals. The group winners in Leinster would reach the semi-finals. The 3 group winners in Ulster along with the best loser would make up the semi-finals.
The four Provincial semi-finals would be played followed by the four Provincial finals.
The four Provincial winners and four beaten finalists would be top seeds for the 8 groups in the race for Sam Maguire. The remaining 24 teams would be drawn (Seeded or unseeded draw i.e 4 provincial pots could be used to separate the counties or leave it open draw).
Once the 8 groups have been drawn the competition would begin with each team playing each other home and away (6 matches per county).
The top two teams in each group would make the last 16 of the championship. Group winners would face runner-up from another group in a straight knock out from then on in to the All-Ireland final. 10 GAMES TO BE PLAYED TO WIN SAM (Exc replays)
The four provincial winners would play two semi-finals (rotating yearly draw) with the winners going to New York to each play the hosts, before playing one another in the final in New York.
You would be guaranteed a more expanasive championship and over the course of the year there would be a lot more meaningful matches played over the same duration of time as the current format. The monitoring of draws would mean that you can have a rotational system in place so that groups can be altered annually on a provincial basis. Each county would play a minimum of 10 matches annually. five of those 10 matches would be played on home soil. Each county board would be in the position of selling off season tickets based on those 5 games which would guarantee revenue as well as counties being able to tailor family packages to suit the needs of their supporters. Come further championship tickets the loyal supporter can be easily looked after as he is already on the Counties register as a season ticket holder.
The Provincial format remains with rewards for winning or finishing runner-up with a championship seeding and a possible trip to New York.
The following is a sample of what one could expect if the above proposal was put in place
MUNSTER -Group One Kerry, Tipperary, Waterford Group Two Cork, Clare, Limerick.
Semi-finals- Cork v Tipperary, Kerry v Limerick Final- Cork v Kerry.
CONNACHT- Group One- Galway, Sligo, Leitrim Group Two- Mayo, Roscommon, London.
Semi-finals- Galway v Roscommon, Mayo v Sligo Final- Mayo v Galway.
ULSTER- Group One- Donegal, Fermanagh, Monaghan Group Two- Armagh, Antrim, Tyrone.
Group Three- Down, Derry, Cavan.
Semi-Finals- Monaghan v Tyrone, Armagh v Down Final- Tyrone v Armagh.
LEINSTER- Group One- Dublin, Laois, Carlow Group Two- Meath, Longford, Offaly Group Three- Kildare, Westmeath, Louth Group Four- Wexford, Wicklow, Kilkenny
Semi-Finals- Dublin v Wexford, Meath v Kildare Final- Meath v Dublin.
Winners of groups One, Three, Five and Seven play Runner-up of Groups Eight, Six, Four, and Two.
Winners of Groups Eight, Six, Four, and Two play Runner-up of Groups One, Three, Five and Seven.
Any surviving Provincial winner still seeded so they cannot meet until semi-final stages.
Naturally my opinion is biased but I feel that the variety offered by this type of championship would be far more appealing to the supporter. Opinions for and against are more than welcome.