Sunday 4 December 2016

GAA should shun elitism and focus on a model to promote lower counties

Published 07/08/2016 | 17:00

The truth is that these proposals do nothing for the weaker counties, the ones that need the most support. Stock Photo: Sportsfile
The truth is that these proposals do nothing for the weaker counties, the ones that need the most support. Stock Photo: Sportsfile

The only conclusion I can draw from the new championship proposals is that discrimination against the weaker counties - or the less successful ones to give the more politically correct term - has become so ingrained at the top of the GAA that the feeling is that there will be no rebellion from the poor and downtrodden.

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The truth is that these proposals do nothing for the weaker counties, the ones that need the most support. These counties will be left with a first-round game in the provincial championship and another game, or maybe two, in the qualifiers.

By the business end, normal service will be resumed: the top eight playing off in a super championship.

Of course, that will create a lot of interest, but it will be for Kerry, Dublin, Tyrone, Mayo, and you can add in a few more.

Occasionally, a team like Tipperary might come along to freshen things up, but the championship is rotten in concept and will be even more rotten with this new format.

In fact, it is even damned by the GAA's own press release: "It will provide a valuable enhancement of the championship by way of eight additional games for the country's best teams." The exact opposite is what is needed. More games for the worst teams with a chance to play in Croke Park, win something and get money as well, is the real need in the GAA. This is not the Premier League with a four-team competition, or Scotland with two, or Spain with three.

This is the GAA, a community organisation which should shun elitism. A model to promote the lowest eight, 12 or 16 teams should be of greater importance than the big eight.

There is nothing in this for Antrim, Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Wicklow, Louth, Offaly, Wexford, Waterford . . . I could keep going.

Again, the press release is revealing when it states: "a significant proportion of this increase (in income) should be ring-fenced for development of games in less successful counties."

Why not give them a proper competition instead? And one where they could also make money?

Naturally, the defence will be that a B Championship is not wanted by counties. But that has to do with the way it was packaged. If such a championship had enough incentives, it would work. This latest offering ensures that the status quo prevails for the majority and that their players will never play in Croke Park.

When the Central Council meets on this, it will be interesting to see if these "less successful counties" stand up or will they be whipped into line like the Sky deal, where they all voted allegiance to the greatest GAA lie.

Talk to any of these delegates privately and they fully realise that depriving the vast majority of people of the chance to see big games live is not what the GAA is about. But in the smokeless rooms they behave as lambs and raise no dissent. If they do the same on this deal then they deserve what they get. Damned for all time.

It does not have to be this way. Even by leaving the provincial championships unchanged, there is a way of giving more meaningful competition to the weak and still run with the bones of this system. Will anyone raise a voice in protest?

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