Thursday 8 December 2016

Strength of Ulster now main barrier to football championship reform

Published 02/06/2015 | 02:30

Sheedy: Looking for reform
Sheedy: Looking for reform

The annual June calls for change to championship structures have grown louder on the back of heavy defeats for Carlow, Waterford and Longford over the first three weekends.

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Two years ago, the then Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan made a strong case for a second-tier championship after his team's 16-point beating by Dublin in a Leinster quarter-final - a call for change supported at the time by then Waterford manager Niall Carew, now with Sligo.

Limerick's John Brudair, Waterford's Tom McGlinchey and now Longford's Jack Sheedy have all added their voice to support a championship structure that gives weaker teams more realistic targets.

But Leinster Council chairman John Horan has expressed doubt over the capacity for fundamental change as long as the Ulster football championship and Munster hurling championship remain so strong.

"The reality is that GAA is a democratic organisation and there is no way Ulster will give up on their provincial championship and there is no way Munster will give up on their hurling championship," he predicted.

"So to write anything about getting rid of a provincial championship and the responsibility of administrators, those traditions are not going to die easily in the GAA," he said.

Leinster have sought to introduce a round-robin section to their football championship for the early rounds but were knocked back at Congress.

Dublin's dominance of the province has reached a new peak to the extent that they have now won their last four Leinster Championship matches by double-digit scores.

In their last three games alone, last Sunday and their Leinster semi-final and final against Wexford and Meath, the margins have been 16, 16 and 27 points.

Longford's Michael Quinn is uncertain as to whether a 'B' Championship would be attractive enough to players from counties that fit the profile.

"Everyone wants to be in an All-Ireland final and everyone has that dream but you have to be realistic about things too," he said. "Are you going to get to an All-Ireland final? Do you kind of set your stall out, settle for something less? That's a problem too.

"Other provincials are competitive and they don't want to see theirs change to that. There has to be a trial run of something and see how that works out."

Quinn admitted retaining motivation for days like Sunday was getting harder despite the strides being made in the county.

"When your family is behind you and the girlfriend is asking you, 'What's in it for you?'. It's risk versus reward.

"You can't give a straight answer, that's just they way it is and that's it. Look it, I wouldn't change it, I'm from Longford. You're going to fight and try to bring Longford forward. I think Longford can be in a better place than we are at the moment. There's lot of improvements we can make and young lads coming on," he said.

On a separate issue, Horan said nothing would give him greater pleasure as Leinster Council chairman than to have the Dublin footballers play a championship match outside the capital.

"The only venue in the province that is really open to consideration is Nowlan Park because it can take a 25,000 crowd and it has 15,000 seats.

"If we went to Tullamore on Sunday, half the seats would have been gone already to people who have season tickets. We have 3,000, then give players and sponsors their tickets and we would have had less than 3,000 tickets to sell in Tullamore."

Irish Independent

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