Friday 15 December 2017

Time to overhaul system that has left five counties out in cold

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

AS ever with the All Stars, the strong counties enjoy the feast while their poorer brethren shiver on the outside, pressing their noses to the window as they look in.

Very few of them will ever break through the security cordon which only allows players from counties who have done very well in the All-Ireland championship into the banquet. It applies again for this year's football team, all of whom come from the four All-Ireland semi-finalists, with Donegal and Mayo taking 12 places.

With the exception of the first few seasons, domination by the elite who prosper in the championship has usually been the case since the launch of the scheme in 1971.

There's an obvious reason for such a simple distribution of wealth. Big performances in the glamour occasions of late summer/early autumn count for more than consistent excellence earlier in the year.

And since the All Stars are chosen in October, when the championship peaks are still fresh in the selectors' minds, they weigh even more heavily.

Having been on the All Stars selection panel for many years, I know there's no easy answer to the dilemma of trying to compare an outstanding season by a player from a less successful county, which doesn't make a provincial final or All-Ireland quarter-final, and a rival from a strong county who illuminates Croke Park in August/September.

For all that, there has to be something flawed in a system where five counties are still without a football All Star, while another five have only one each.

It means that 10 counties have won less than 1pc of the 630 All Stars between them.

Extend it to the bottom 15 counties and their combined take is only 3pc.

At the top end of the scale, the riches are tightly controlled. The top six counties have won over 64pc between them, while the top 10 have 82pc. Kerry, Dublin and Cork have 44pc between them.

Is the football landscape really that uneven?

Longford's Paul Barden and Michael Quinn and Wexford's Adrian Flynn were the only players from the two lower league divisions to get into the 45-strong nominations this year.

That's higher than usual, but none of them made the team. Barden was probably the best specialist No 11 among the nominations, but lost out against a range of half-forward rivals whose seasons took them much deeper into the championship.

Here's how the 630 All Star football awards have been shared out over 42 seasons.

Kerry 127; Dublin 88; Cork 64; Meath 49; Tyrone 40; Galway 37; Offaly 30; Mayo 29; Derry 27; Donegal 26; Armagh 24; Down 23; Roscommon, Kildare 15 each, Monaghan 7; Laois, Westmeath 5 each; Sligo, Fermanagh 4 each; Cavan, Leitrim, Tipperary 2 each; Antrim, Clare, Wicklow, Wexford, Louth 1 each; Carlow, Longford, Limerick, Waterford, Kilkenny 0.

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