Flaw-ridden championship proposals facing the chop
The prospect of change in the All-Ireland senior football championship structure has receded significantly following the publication of no fewer than 13 perceived flaws in the three proposals that will go before Central Council for consideration on Saturday.
The defects have been pointed out by the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee, which was asked by Central Council to select three preferred options from 18 submissions.
CCCC settled on the three proposals which it felt best encapsulates the wishes expressed by counties, leaving it up to Central Council to decide which, if any, will go before Congress. The GPA plan, which proposed the introduction of eight groups of four, played off in round-robin format after the provincial championships, is not included.
CCCC's three chosen options feature round-robin provincial championships; seeded groups to avoid strong teams playing much weaker opposition once the provincial championships were completed and a separate championship for Division 4 counties.
However, CCCC have not given its backing to any of the proposals, instead providing Central Council with an outline of what they involve. And while some of the analysis is positive, several negatives are also included.
CCCC has raised several queries about the first proposal which will go before Central Council.
It calls for four groups of eight on a seeded basis. The eight top seeds would be comprised of the provincial finalists from the previous year, with second seeds made up of the eight beaten provincial semi-finalists.
Third and fourth seeds would be determined by finishing positions in the Allianz Football League.
Tier 3 and Tier 4 teams would meet in the first round of the All-Ireland series, with the eight winners then taking on Tier 2 opposition. Those winners would play Tier 1 teams to provide the All-Ireland quarter-finalists.
CCCC points out that system could involve a wait of up to two months for a team beaten in the first round of a provincial championship before they entered the All-Ireland race.
It also notes that the reward for reaching a provincial final would not be felt until the following year and that an open draw for All-Ireland quarter-finals would devalue the provincial championship as various winners could be paired against each other.
CCCC's overall assessment of that structure is that it "could be interpreted as a 'change for change's sake' proposal, however well-intentioned."
CCCC are sceptical too about the merit of a round-robin format for the provincial championships. That plan envisages groups of three in each province playing off against each other.
Leinster would have four groups, Ulster three, Connacht and Munster two each. New York would play in Leinster in order to complete their 12 and cut Connacht to six. The proposal also includes a secondary championship for Division 3 and 4 counties.
CCCC queries the practicality of committing New York to three games, citing costs, the inability of some players to travel to Ireland and the likelihood that the team would not be sufficiently competitive.
It also points to the inequity where two teams per group would reach the Connacht and Munster semi-finals, whereas only one per group would qualify in Leinster and Ulster.
Scoring difference could be required to separate teams in some groups, which would be deeply unsatisfactory for the GAA's premier competition.
The third proposal calls for Division 4 counties eliminated from the provincial championships to be excluded from the All-Ireland qualifiers. Instead, they would enter a secondary competition, with the winners guaranteed a place in the following year's qualifiers. CCCC states that if this proposal is accepted, ways of making of the secondary championship will have to be worked on.
"This has been tried before (Tommy Murphy Cup 2004-2008) and wasn't particularly successful. We have to ask why? Was it packaged right? Did we give it proper standing. Were the rewards for winning it sufficient?" asks CCCC.
However, it also notes that this proposal appears to "the closest solution to the original brief of ensuring the championship structure best meets the needs of the less successful counties".
Even if Central Council opt to put any proposal for change before Congress, it would require a two-thirds majority, increasing the likelihood of rejection.