Sunday 17 December 2017

Leinster push for round-robin stage to boost 'poor' provincial championship

Kevin O'Driscoll, Cork, in action against Eric Lowndes, Dublin
Kevin O'Driscoll, Cork, in action against Eric Lowndes, Dublin
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Leinster are pressing ahead with plans to reshape their football championships with the submission of a motion to Congress later this month that calls for the flexibility to re-structure as they see fit.

Currently, rules governing the inter-county championships specifically prevent provinces from organising their own championships on a round-robin basis. Provinces are obliged to run their provincial games on a knock-out basis.

But following "positive" feedback from meetings last autumn among the chairpersons of every county, there is a mood for potential change in how they run the championships.

Two groups involving six of the 11 teams in the province has been touted as one of the potential ways forward before alignment with the championship proper.

"We discussed the current rule and decided there was no point in pressing ahead with any plans until we sought change," said new Leinster chief executive Michael Reynolds.

"It's an effort to try and improve things and I would say, for some counties, qualifiers are gone stale. They don't take them as seriously."

The move comes as Leinster teams failed to beat an opponent from Munster, Connacht or Ulster in the first round of league action over the weekend. Dublin lost to Cork in Division 1, Meath and Kildare lost to Galway and Down in Division 2, while Louth and Wexford were hammered by Fermanagh and Clare away from home in Division 3.

Significant

In Division 4 Carlow and Longford drew against Antrim and Leitrim, and Wicklow lost to Waterford. For Carlow a draw away from home does represent a significant success. Offaly did manage to beat London in Division 4, while Westmeath beat Laois in Division 2.

There is growing concern at the falling standard - with the exception of Dublin - of inter-county football in the province. Last year, five of the six relegated counties were from Leinster, with Kildare and Westmeath dropping from Division 1, Louth falling to Division 3 and Longford and Offaly plummeting to the basement division.

Only Dublin made it to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, the lowest representation of any of the four provinces. In his annual report to the Leinster convention, Reynolds touched on the subject of poor quality.

"What is more worrying is the rather poor level of competition among many of the other counties in games not involving Dublin," he noted. "It is clear that there are now three, if not four, levels in the Leinster senior football championship."

Irish Independent

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