Photo: The 42
It’s difficult, I know, to think about anything else but Saturday at the minute but the GAA’s proposals, which were announced earlier on today and are here, to restructure the football championship are interesting. From an initial scan of them they look good and would certainly be an improvement on the current set-up.
Under the proposals the provincial championships would remain in place, not one suspects because they should but because there’s no point trying to face down the all-powerful provincial councils. Instead the revamp comes at what we now call the All-Ireland series.
The current All-Ireland quarter-final round would go and would instead be replaced by a round-robin “Champions League” arrangement. This would involve two groups of four, comprising two provincial champions and two Round 4 qualifier winners, with the top two from each group going forward to the All-Ireland semi-finals. It’s proposed that both penultimate round ties would then be played on the same weekend.
The proposed revamp would mean three All-Ireland series games instead of one to get to an All-Ireland semi-final and the proposal is that one round would be played at Croke Park with counties then playing home and away after that. This means big games at provincial venues at the height of summer, which has to be a good idea. It would also mean that Dublin will have to hit the road too, the poor dears.
Based on a quick initial reading of what’s being proposed, I see a few issues with the plans that have been put forward. One relates to the tie-breakers (in the event that counties end on the same number of points after the round-robin games), the first of which to apply is the head-to-head record. This isn’t a fair method, given that it will inevitably lead to situations where a team winning a home match will prevail against a county playing away. Points difference over the three games would seem a fairer way of separating teams tied on points.
A second problem I’d have relates to how it’ll actually copper-fasten Dublin’s unfair advantage in playing at Croke Park. Under the proposals, they’d be guaranteed two out of the three matches at HQ while the great unwashed would only get one each. Getting the Dubs on the road would be good but the aim should be to get them on the road properly like everyone else.
These are only proposals and a two-thirds majority at Congress will be needed to make the changes happen. I’d say there’s undoubtedly some appetite for change within the organisation but whether or not it’s sufficient to see these proposals being implemented is another day’s work.