Tipp selector fears reforms would just hurt smaller counties
Tommy Toomey, the Tipperary senior football selector, and manager of the under 21 team that reached last year's All-Ireland final, has expressed strong reservations to the proposals to reform the structure of the championship.
Toomey says the proposals, if passed, would reduce the prospect of a county like his repeating their recent feat of qualifying for the All-Ireland semi-finals, one of the stories of the summer.
Tipperary are preparing for their first semi-final appearance since 1935 after a thrilling win over Connacht champions Galway last Sunday, having beaten Derry in the qualifiers before that. This year, Tipperary played in Division 3 of the National Football League. Clare, who won promotion from Division 3, reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals, while Fermanagh enjoyed the same run a year ago, losing to Dublin.
"The big guns can afford to lose a game and still be in the competition," said Toomey of the proposal to have eight counties play in a series of matches to decide who reaches the semi-finals, rather than the traditional quarter-final pairings. "To me, it is front-loaded towards the bigger teams and stronger panels. You would have to play three matches in quick succession and you would need bigger squads. I don't think it would be an advantage to counties like Tipp or Clare, we don't have the resources of the Kerrys or Dublins or Tyrones."
Clare manager Colm Collins has called for the abolition of the provincial championship, regarding the proposals as skirting around the real issues. Toomey is more supportive of the provincial structure remaining in place, but is concerned that the proposals have "come out of the blue" with little obvious discussion or consultation.
The GAA has said it is responding to nationwide feedback on championship reform.
"We have had a bit of luck, but we have got to the semi-final," says Toomey. "We have some very good players who want to get up to this level on a continuous basis, but if this changes it will mean another step for teams like ourselves. I think Páraic Duffy and Croke Park need to explain it a bit more. What is the need to do this? Is it to prevent teams like Tipp getting to where they are?
"We are realistic enough to know we are a third division team. We are very confident in the way the lads are playing, but we know we are into the heavyweight end of the season. Would we have a chance under this system? It would be an awful lot harder. We are a third division team that has probably overachieved in people's minds. Is that what the GAA wants to avoid? Having a Tipp team in an All-Ireland semi final?
"I think they are underestimating teams like ourselves, the work that's going on in counties.
"And if Tipp can do it then other counties can, they can get that same belief. This will close that avenue where counties like us can get to an All-Ireland semi-final by beating a bigger team in a one-off match."
Sunday Indo Sport