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Urge to merge is getting stronger


Westmeath players, from left to right, Kieran Gavin, Denis Glennon, Gary Connaughton

Westmeath players, from left to right, Kieran Gavin, Denis Glennon, Gary Connaughton

Westmeath players, from left to right, Kieran Gavin, Denis Glennon, Gary Connaughton

IN the face of looming catastrophe, one can react one of two ways. Either stick your craven head in the bunker and await nuclear meltdown – or come out and fight. Be radical. Shake up the cosy consensus and the even cosier cartels.

And no, we're not advocating the overthrow of Enda, the Troika and the nation's entire shower of bankers. Not yet.

It's time for Curve Ball to address the great inequity of our day. The inter-county football championship.

Now, this column readily understands that mention of the words 'GAA', 'competition' and 'structures' in the one sentence is sufficient to send even the most curious mind into an instant and irreversible coma.

So we're not going to tackle such weighty proposals as eight-team geographical confederations or Champions League models or 'A' and 'B' championships whose membership is linked to league positions/provincial progress or ... zzzzzzzz ... sorry, where were we?

Ah yes, our ingenious answer to that growing chasm between the best and the rest and especially the imminent global domination of Jim Gavin's Sky Blue behemoth.

There's only one thing for it. Mergers. Lots of them.

This column cannot claim copyright on this radical panacea, but we hereby promise to go further than anyone has before by outlining the full list of despairing counties in need of desperate measures, ie neighbourhood alliances with the cloven-footed foe.

This may equate to sleeping with the enemy, but what's the alternative? Another 16-point debacle against the Dubs? Another 26-point dismemberment by those Kerry carnivores?

Finding suitable bedfellows is the first challenge. The second, even more problematic conundrum, is hitting upon a compromise name that will satisfy both parties and make each believe its identity has not been subsumed by its one-time nemesis.

So then, into the breach ...


Westmeath and Meath

The former have never beaten the latter in SFC combat, even though the latter struggle to beat anyone of note these days (Kildare don't count). The latter's supporters never miss an opportunity to remind the former about this winless condition – no surprise as they've little else to be amusing themselves with.

Yet, given that both counties showed smidgens of promotion-winning league promise and given their shared history as part of a medieval empire, surely a merger would be mutually beneficial? Now all we need is a name that resonates with both, taking a syllable from each existing unit ...

3NEW COUNTY: Westmeath. Obviously!


Cork and Kerry

The notion of combining two existing superpowers may seem perverse, but trust us, there is twisted logic behind the apparent madness. This southern duopoly can't stand each other, so being compelled to play on the same team is bound to drag down standards on the premise that Kerry won't pass to Cork and vice versa. Suddenly, every other sinking Munster minnow will fancy its chances.

As for a name, we will eschew the obvious – Kork, Cerry, even Corry (albeit this soap opera would run and run) – in favour of ...

3NEW COUNTY: The People's Republic of Cute Hoors.


Laois and Offaly

They share a political constituency. They share a recent penchant for early Leinster exits. They even, allegedly, share certain uniquely midland traits – hence the 'BUFFALO' offshoot from 'BIFFO'. But this parish is above such cheap jibes of the big ugly variety, hence a new moniker that reflects the gung-ho football that Laois/Offaly will play in their newly conjoined state.

3NEW COUNTY: Off-the-Laois.


Galway and Clare

Time to start crossing those outdated provincial boundaries. These are natural allies, given a shared love of traditional music and traditional football (the type that no longer wins matches).

One fondly believes that U21 prophets will save their souls; the other that septuagenarian messiahs will save their hides against Cork. In their separated states of delusion, they are going nowhere fast. Together they can, eh, beat the Rossies.

3NEW COUNTY: Claregalway, playing all their matches in, quelle surprise, Claregalway!


Derry and London

One of these counties remains adamant that it can still go it alone, but enough of London. Derry will try anything after last Sunday's second half fade-out, even – whisper it – swear an oath of allegiance to Boris Johnson.

NEW COUNTY: We'll give you a clue. It's not Derrylondon ... doh, Londonderry!


Armagh and Tyrone

And to think, these counties used to form part of the fabled Big Three less than a decade ago. Today, Tyrone are just about hanging on to the Big Six and Armagh have abandoned the blanket in favour of gossamer defence. It is time to do the unthinkable?

We appreciate that this is a high-risk unification strategy, with potential for internecine carnage, hence the name ...

3NEW COUNTY: Armageddon.


Longford, Roscommon and Sligo

After the anguish of Aughrim and the wretchedness of Ruislip and, we suspect, the calamity of Castlebar, we hereby subscribe a tripartite solution.

But finding a name has been almost beyond our imagination, so we've settled on a very dubious anagram that, we still reckon, encapsulates the dawning of a glorious underdog era.

NEW COUNTY: (Waiting in the) Long Gross.


Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and the City Council

3NEW COUNTY: A truly appalling vista (for all the rest) ... Dublin!