Championship reshuffle can keep everyone happy
Imbalances in football year could be rectified by separating provinces from All-Ireland series
The annual championship structures debate has come around again and this year I have a simple plan to solve the problem and keep everyone happy in the process.
I've read some radical proposals recently which are fine in theory but they would give the older delegates at Congress a headache and have no chance of getting passed.
My plan is simple: all I propose to do is move the structures that are already there around a bit.
The provincial championships, which lead into All-Ireland quarter-finals, are the main problem with the current set-up. The imbalance of counties in each province is the major obstacle to a fair championship; however, they still retain popularity with players and supporters. I'm in favour of retaining them, once they are separated from the main All-Ireland competition.
My proposal is for the league to lead into the All-Ireland quarter-finals - not the provincial championships leading to the last eight as they do now. The provincial competitions can be retained and played as a stand-alone cup competition early in the year before the All-Ireland series.
The All Ireland series will have two main divisions - 1A /1B and 2A /2B. Division 1 and 2 of the current National League make up division 1 while the current Divisions 3 and 4 make up division 2. The provincial championships can run for the month of March. The All-Ireland series then begins in the second week in April. Teams in the four divisions play seven championship games against teams of their own standard. The top four in each division make it into the All-Ireland quarter-finals - all played in Croke Park. Top 4 in division 1A play the top 4 in 1B and likewise in 2A and 2B. Both division 1 and 2 All-Ireland finals should be played on the same day in Croke Park.
Some supporters might be concerned about the provincial championships losing their appeal but what if the winners were awarded two points for the league section of the All-Ireland series? What a start that would be.
Club leagues can be played alongside county games without the involvement of county players. This restructure will allow the club championship five uninterrupted months (for every county not in the two All-Ireland finals) giving club players definite dates for their league and championship games and some summer championship football. This is all club players want.
The Sigerson Cup, which causes friction between county managers and colleges, can run in January and February. All of this shortens the inter-county season, gives players and supporters more championship games, greatly reduces idle time for training, improves the club players' season and retains the provincial championships.
Now who could possibly have a problem with all that?