Saturday 18 November 2017

Kerry's farcical All-Ireland semi-final route highlights the absurdity of the football championship

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

The phrase 'championship structures' usually causes GAA fans to tune out but it is worth quickly highlighting Kerry's path to possible September glory.

Seven weeks after losing the Division 1 league final to Dublin, Kerry began their 2016 championship with a 12 point win over Division 3 Clare in the Munster semi-final.

Three weeks later they beat Division 3 Tipperary by ten in the Munster final and now they face Division 3 Clare - again - in the last eight following a four week break.

Given that the Kingdom are 1/25 favourites to win their quarter-final tie, they will almost certainly take their place in the All-Ireland semi-final in what amounts to one of the easiest routes to the final four in history.

Read more: Comment: All Star in waiting Gary Brennan isn't just Clare's hero - he's an inspiration to every footballer in Ireland

It isn't Kerry's fault that Cork lost to Tipperary in Munster, thus robbing them of a valuable clash against a Division 1 opponent, but the path Eamonn Fitzmaurice's side have been given to the business end of this year's championship highlights the absurdity of its structure.

Contrast Kerry with Tyrone, who have beaten Derry (Division 2), Cavan (Division 2) and Donegal (Division 1) to reach the quarter-finals, where they will play another Division 1 opponent (probably Mayo).

How can a competition structure exist where two sides play teams of such contrasting levels?

This isn't just down to the vagaries of the draw, as Dublin had a similarly peaceful route to the semi-final last year.

Today we were treated to two qualifier games that embody everything that is great about the championship. At the end, Clare and Tipperary were left standing to enter the All-Ireland quarter-finals for the first time.

The reason the encounters were so compelling was that the teams were of a similar level. Their progression to the All-Ireland series felt earned.

The same can't be said about Kerry's journey. Last year's runners up would probably have still booked their quarter-final place had they been playing in a format where they were more rigorously tested - and it is plain crazy that we are persisting with a structure where they weren't even given that chance.

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