Tuesday 17 October 2017

Wipe away those unnecessary tiers

Eamonn Sweeney

Every year it's the same old story. The trouncing of one of the lesser lights in the football championship is greeted by calls for the introduction of a two-tier competition. Humanitarian concerns are mentioned as is the fact that many of the counties entering the championship haven't a hope of winning it.

Soon afterwards, this idea is proved to be nonsense by the actual results of games. I suspect that the proponents of a two-tier championship might place Sligo in the second tier and Galway in the first. Well, last Saturday the former defeated the latter for the second time in three years, while Carlow, usually everybody's idea of no-hopers, earned a dramatic draw against Meath.

These results, along with Longford's victory over Laois, proved you can't have a two-tier championship for the simple reason that there aren't two distinct tiers in Gaelic football.

You have perhaps three counties a cut above the rest, Dublin, Cork and Kerry, and even then the Dubs were held to a draw by Wexford two years ago and just scraped by them in last year's Leinster final. Three years ago, Sligo would have knocked Kerry out had they not missed a last-gasp penalty.

Kildare might be All-Ireland contenders this year but in recent seasons they've been dumped out of the Leinster championship by Louth and Wicklow. And if there are few counties that unquestionably belong in the top tier, the same is true at the other end of the scale.

What we have in the football championship is a situation where on any given Sunday most teams have a shot at victory if they're properly organised and hit form. The idea that there are clearly defined elite teams and strugglers just doesn't hold water.

As for the complaint that most teams begin the championship without hope of ultimate victory, the same happens to be true of every sporting competition. Only three or four teams have a chance of winning the Premier League but that doesn't mean they only put eight teams in it. The chances that the European Championship will be won by a nation other than Spain or Germany are pretty low but that doesn't mean Denmark, Greece and Croatia should be playing in the Vladislav Murphy Cup.

Which is better for football in Carlow? Having a memorable tilt at giants as they did last Sunday or playing in a designated second-rate competition against Waterford in front of a handful of spectators?

Sunday Indo Sport

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