ONE of the longest-serving GAA administrators believes the time is right to dispense with league finals to allow more time for the championships to be played.
Connacht GAA secretary John Prenty feels the finals, mostly fixed over the first weekend in April, no longer get the respect they deserve.
He cited Mayo’s 15-point defeat to Kerry earlier this year to back up his point, suggesting the time would be better served being put into extending the championship timeframe or allowing for more preparations.
While Division 3 and 4 finals carry more value to participants, Prenty sees promotion to a higher division as sufficient reward after a seven-match programme.
“Who is interested in winning it?” Prenty (pictured) asked. “If you look at the way Mayo treated their league final. It is too close to playing the first round of the championship. How many leagues in the world finish up with that?
“It’s different in hurling maybe. But it (removing it) gives you an extra week or 10 days’ preparation.”
Mayo did draw much satisfaction from winning the 2019 final against Kerry, as did Kerry when they beat Dublin in 2017, but ultimately it didn’t enhance their championship ambitions any more later in the year.
In his position as a provincial secretary, Prenty is a member of the GAA’s Central Competition Controls Committee (CCCC) but stresses that his view on league finals is purely a personal one.
That body is due to meet in the coming month to review how the new split season went and what potential adjustments can be made as they adapt to a schedule that in football will have more games with the advent of a qualifier round-robin and preliminary quarter-final.
“The league finals have been losing their value for a long time and this year’s one was typical. It might even have cost Mayo a first-round win in Connacht. They haven’t been given any respect so if you don’t give them any respect why have them?”
Prenty feels that in principle the split season has worked well and cited how, through his involvement with Ballyhaunis football teams, having all their players for the majority of their league games has really helped them.
“We used to have Keith Higgins on the senior football panel but we would have a lot of guys on the senior hurling panel and now we have them all for our league games and it is giving us better preparation going into the club championships in two weeks’ time.”
But he accepted the expanded programme of football games in 2023 and it could be “difficult to get it finished” in the current timeframe and ditching league finals could buy some extra time.