Sport

Thursday 21 August 2014

Points difference a crazy way to decide league placings

Published 08/04/2007 | 00:11

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IF last week's weather is a result of global warming then I am all for it. Football can only be played properly when the ground is dry and the temperature above 15 degrees. That's when players with a bit of class begin to shine and those who survived the winter grounds, but don't have gears, are left by the speedsters on slicks.

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One downside of an increase in temperatures and hard summer pitches is an increasing interest in cricket by our hurlers. Anyone watching the end of the England versus Sri Lanka match would hardly call cricket boring. A game that went down to the last ball had as much tension as a Leinster final with Meath a point up and Dublin with a free to equalise.

With Ireland doing well in the West Indies it is a wonder some of the hurlers are not volunteering their services. When Henry Shefflin got married recently they should have diverted him on honeymoon to Jamaica, plied him with a barrel of rum and sent him out to the crease. He would hit boundaries for sport and a six would be a simple lift and strike.

Perhaps in time we will see Kilkenny playing Cork in the All-Ireland cricket final in Croke Park, with Michael Greenan as umpire. There would be no going back to only allowing blue-blooded Gaelic players by the Canal after that.

Anyway, in the frenzied world of the GAA, the League concludes for most today. Quite unsatisfactory, too, in the way placings in next year's divisions are to be decided and it is only after this afternoon's events that many will realise how wrong the system is.

Teams finishing on the same points will have their placings decided by score difference. This is an absolutely ridiculous way of ranking teams and has no merit in the GAA. It is a copy of a soccer system which should only be used as a last resort in football because it has no relevance for our game.

The result between the two teams should decide placings in the division in the event of the two counties ending up on the same points. If they drew their match, then there is a case for score difference, but not at the start.

Take today for example. Meath play Wexford in a vital game in Division 2B. If Wexford win both themselves and Meath end up on the same points. Yet a win for Wexford is not enough unless they win by at least seven points. How can that be fair?

At this stage of the League some teams who have been beaten a few times have lost interest, they are destined for Division 4 anyway so one of the top sides can improve their scoring difference greatly by giving them a right hammering. There is no sense of fairness about a system which benefits one county humiliating another in the last round just to improve their scoring difference.

Last Sunday, Wexford hurlers had an outside chance of improving their League position, if other results went their way, by giving Down a hammering. They managed it alright, winning by 34 points. Yet they still finished in the same spot in the group after an afternoon of shooting fish in a barrel. Are either county any better off for this crazy shoot-out?

This is not being wise after the event. For the last few years the Meath championships have been run on a league system. Where teams finished level on points, their place was decided by the result of the game between the teams. Absolutely fair.

When I was involved on the Meath committee to consider the changes to this year's National Football League we immediately spotted the anomaly of deciding games on score difference. We pointed it out and submitted that the other system should apply. It fell on deaf ears. Today the repercussions of that nonsensical decision will be unveiled.

Furthermore, any county who were using the proper method for their own league or championship now have to get in line with the Croke Park edict at club level, a case of the blind leading those who can see.

So for today's games the county secretary will pack a laptop as well as the jerseys to work out final placings. And players who have a bit of decency and sportsmanship about them and decided to pull back instead of putting the boot into opponents when they had them on the rack might find it backfiring on them.

Anything below Division 2 has

very little spectator appeal

Because today is not just about qualifying for the knock-out stages, more than that it concerns whether it is Division 1, 2, 3 or 4 for the troops next year. On top of all this there is money involved, anything below Division 2 has very little spectator appeal.

Hopefully by next year, Central Council will have accepted how silly this is and will make a simple change to promote fairness. In the meantime, some of the big counties who drop down a division and may have to get a road map to plot their next campaign, will wonder what their delegates were at to allow this through.

Donegal and Mayo have already made it through in the toughest division and their opponents will be either Derry, Galway, Laois or Kildare. These last couple of games are the best guide to the championship and the last few years has seen a greater connection between a good league run and a long summer.

Mayo are shaping up very nicely, but will they vote to keep their manager at home? A game for another day. For now the tallymen can get a bit of early practice by doing the points differentials for today.

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