Busy agenda as Tribe hail heroes of '98
Mentioning All-Ireland championship formats or football's slavery to handpassing in a column always attracts a lot of attention, proving that people have strong views on them.
I came across both at a function in Galway last Friday to mark the 20th anniversary of the footballers' All-Ireland win in 1998. Indeed, I had only just arrived in the Galmont Hotel when a Cavan man, who happened to be passing through, made his case for a new system. Páraic Farrelly has written to me on the subject before and was keen to widen the discussion.
"Throw it out there and see what people think," he urged. So here goes. He wants the 32 teams divided into eight groups of four to be decided on league placings (one from each division).
Each group plays off on a 'round robin' basis, with the top two in each (16 in all) qualifying for the Sam Maguire Cup tier and the bottom two heading for a secondary competition.
Both finals would be played on the same day. The provincial championships would be played earlier on, without having any input to the All-Ireland race.
As for the handpassing issue, the 1998 Galway-Kildare All-Ireland final was shown on several background screens during the function, reminding people of how the game has changed in 20 years. And not for the better either.
A final point. On a day of lengthy reminiscing, combined with chat about present-day issues, it was pointed out to me that in 1966 Galway completed their All-Ireland treble with a win over Meath just two weeks after seven of the team played in the county final. Imagine suggesting that a modern-day county final be played so close to an All-Ireland final.