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Call from Waterford to cut Sam Maguire contenders by half

A call to halve the number of counties who compete for the Sam Maguire Cup has emerged from Waterford.

It comes in the week after the Deise footballers lost to All-Ireland champions Cork by 17 points, but county secretary Tim O'Keeffe insists his proposal has nothing to do with one big defeat.

"The system has always been flawed. Is there any other sport in the world where the strongest and weakest are thrown in together? If it hasn't worked in the 127-year history of the GAA, it's unlikely to start working now," he said.

O'Keeffe believes it's illogical to have 33 teams competing for the All-Ireland championship when the vast majority are out of their depth.

"It doesn't happen in hurling or at club level either," he said. "Donegal won the Lory Meagher Cup but nobody would dream of putting them in against Tipperary next year. No county puts a weak junior club team in against the senior county champions either."

O'Keeffe advocates a system where 16 to 18 counties compete for the Sam Maguire Cup, with the remainder having their own championship.

The top 16 to 18 would be decided on league placings for the first season, after which relegation/promotion would apply between the first and second tiers.

He believes it serves no purpose to have counties competing at a level where they are unlikely to achieve anything.

"Waterford's first game in the championship was against Cork, the All-Ireland and league winners, so what chance had we?" said O'Keeffe.

"If we were playing someone from the bottom two divisions we'd be in with a decent chance of making progress.

"Division 3 and 4 counties should be in a competition they have a chance of winning and, after that, they could take their chance at Sam Maguire level."

Allowing the top 16/18 only to compete for Sam Maguire would mean the end of the provincial championship as part of the All-Ireland scene, but O'Keeffe argues that the current system isn't serving weaker counties anyway.

"The strong counties are happy with it because it gives them a chance to have an easy game or two to get ready for the bigger tests ahead," he said.

"We have to think about what's good for the promotion of football and, as far as I'm concerned, the current system is not working.

"Hurling is much fairer as there's a tier for every county where they have a chance of doing well."

Irish Independent