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What your county said - Do you favour retaining the provincial championship within the All-Ireland?

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Evan O'Carroll of Laois is tackled by Dublin's Eoin Murchan during the Leinster SFC semi-final at Croke Park last November. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Evan O'Carroll of Laois is tackled by Dublin's Eoin Murchan during the Leinster SFC semi-final at Croke Park last November. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Evan O'Carroll of Laois is tackled by Dublin's Eoin Murchan during the Leinster SFC semi-final at Croke Park last November. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Do you favour retaining the provincial championships as the basis for the All-Ireland football championship, or is the option of a summer-based league, as proposed by the Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force, more preferable?

ANTRIM (Ciarán McCavana)

Provincial championships should be maintained in current format.

ARMAGH (Mickey Savage)

I’m a big supporter of the provincial championships. If you talk to anybody in Ulster they’ll probably say the same – I feel we have a great championship here, and Connacht’s championship is fairly open as well. I know in Leinster, Dublin are pulling away from the pack and that’s where the problems are. I’m definitely not in favour of the summer-based league.

CARLOW (Jim Bolger)

The summer-based league proposal merits further exploration/debate as to date we have not fully teased out its merits/demerits.

CAVAN (Kieran Callaghan)

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We’ll be sticking with the best provincial championship that there is. Ulster is an absolutely cracking championship, any number of teams can win it every year. This hasn’t been debated through the clubs or any forums where you need to get into the detail and this is too rushed. Not going to happen unless there is proper debate on it. I think it should be parked until Covid is gone. Even Special Congress (in September) is too soon, you need proper debate where people can put their arguments properly. You can’t do it virtually.

CORK (Marc Sheehan)

Personally I would favour the retention of the provincial championship model with extra teams involved as proposed.

DERRY (Stephen Barker)

Yes, we expect to be in favour of moving forward with a 4x8 county approach to provincial competitions.

DONEGAL (Mick McGrath)

We are happy with the provincial championship.

DOWN (John Devaney)

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The summer-based league-championship is a preferable option. There is a desire for change, and though this option proposes some significant shifts, it still maintains the core parts of our leagues and championships, whilst offering a fresh approach. This option offers more dynamic and more games.

There is a reluctance among provincial councils to see their championships detached from the All-Ireland series; but in truth some of those championships are more competitive and vibrant than others, and that link between them and the All-Ireland series has been diluted for some time now (and even the experience of 2020 did not suggest that a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals was anything more than a bonus for Tipperary and Cavan after their seismic achievements in winning the provincial titles).

The challenge now is to re-imagine the provincial championships, with a different structure and at a different time. The months of February and March would now be open to make the most of those competitions (free from any other GAA competition in those months), and with enhanced marketing and promotion, there is no reason why they can’t maintain their significance.

We will have to accept that some ‘sacred cows’ will be culled – the January competitions and the Super 8s will be casualties. However, I would favour and encourage the retention of the league titles. The National Football League title is 95-years-old and has not diminished with time. Unlike other competitions that lost relevance and slipped away (Railway Cup, Oireachtas Tournament), there is still a high value to the league accolade(s), and it is important that we don’t consign them to history.

Counties like Monaghan. Laois, Longford and New York have never won an All-Ireland senior football championship, but yet are the proud holders of league honours. As we are possibly moving towards an All-Ireland league-championship (and let’s call it that), there is no reason why the National League title can’t be awarded to the team that finishes on top of Division 1 (and likewise in the other divisions).

This overall option also offers more in relation to the Tailteann Cup. The idea that a team could achieve league promotion via this competition offers a real incentive.

DUBLIN (Michael Seavers)

Dublin management committee await the definitive list of motions that will be discussed at Congress later this month and, until such time, I will not be in a position to disclose our views on any of the topics raised. I have my own thoughts on the motions but, as chairperson, I feel it would be inappropriate of me to comment on any of the questions you pose before members of management discuss them.

GALWAY (Pat Kearney)

Retain provincial championships as a basis for the All-Ireland championship.

KERRY (Tim Murphy)

No firm opinion has been formed on this as of yet. The intention was to discuss this with clubs in advance of Congress 2021 but we will re-engage with clubs later in the year in advance of Special Congress.

KILDARE (Mick Gorman)

Covid has provided us with an opportunity to examine a split-season format and how our inter-county competitions are organised.

When we return to normality I would favour a split-season with county competitions taking place in the first part of the year. Dual players are no longer a feature at inter-county level owing to the high levels of commitment required. It follows that football and hurling can now be played simultaneously, allowing for more games to be played during the season.

I believe the following three competition formats for the football season should be given serious consideration for inter-county football.

The first competition of the year should be the inter-provincial championship, without a follow-on for the provincial winners.

The second competition should be a two-tiered open draw All-Ireland competition, with a shield competition for the first-round losers.

The third competition should be the premier competition of the year, and would comprise four divisions of eight, based on our current league format.

The logistics and promotion of the above should emphasise that the third competition is the premier contest which all counties will be working towards. The premier competition will be the culmination of each county’s season. This competition will guarantee every county at least seven competitive games in their own division at the height of the inter-county season.

LAOIS (Peter O’Neill)

I believe a provincial championship should be retained but qualifications to All-Ireland as per summer-league basis.

LEITRIM (Enda Stenson)

We are so tied that we can’t have a proper meeting and a proper discussion. People will have views, and those views won’t get to be heard sufficiently. Having a Zoom call with just the management committee is not a way to decide things as important as this that could have long-lasting effects. We have to wait until we can meet face-to-face, whether it’s later in the year, next year. No point in making a decision just for the sake of making it and it being the wrong one.

LIMERICK (John Cregan)

Personally, I’ve been at pains for a number of years to point out that the lack of grading in our football championship is a complete disaster.

It’s the only championship I know of its kind. We run our county championships every year from junior B up to senior level with many grades in between. That’s because there are a number of clubs at different levels throughout the county. We don’t ask a junior B team to play a senior team in a club championship. But we do that in the All-Ireland senior football championship.

I’d be all for grading and what appeals to me is the suggestion that you play your championship in league format in the summer. Each county would be guaranteed seven games, your provincial round-robin basis gives you five games and then, from our point of view and other counties who may not be winning the Sam Maguire, you are looking forward to going into the Tailteann Cup against teams of your own strength.

I’m speaking personally, I have taken soundings from our football people, I don’t hear anyone disagreeing with me. I feel that certainly (league-based championship) is very attractive. You don’t have to be winning All-Irelands to be making progress. We are monitoring our performances on an annual basis through the league. I’m sure many other counties do as well. I think it’s the way to go.

LONGFORD (Albert Cooney)

I would like to see provincial competitions retained as a tournament type competition, but not part of All-Ireland championships, if that were possible.

Provincial competitions work well enough in three provinces, but Leinster is a farce with Dublin dominance.

Would have to find a way dealing with dominant teams by placing some type of handicap based on results in other competitions.

Thirty-two counties start out each year to compete for Sam Maguire, with only about five-six counties with any chance of winning the competition. All counties are spending big sums of money in doing so, and some of them have no chance of ever winning the All- Ireland. It does not make sense to keep doing the same thing year after year with no hope and a lot of money spent in doing so, especially for the weaker counties.

We must start looking at a graded system of senior, intermediate, and junior, incorporating relegation and promotion, all counties playing at their own level. This way there is a real hope for the weaker counties to win trophies and medals, and thus boost football and its profile in those counties, also boosting the morale of players etc. It works for LGFA.

LOUTH (Peter Fitzpatrick)

The league is being downgraded here, in my view, and is the ‘bread and butter’ for a lot of counties, especially one like Louth. I’d like to continue concentrating on a seven-match league programme in spring with championship in summer with the addition of the Tailteann Cup as it is.

MAYO (Liam Moffatt)

Mayo GAA will discuss proposals by the Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force with its clubs in advance of Special Congress.

MEATH (John Kavanagh)

In my opinion, I prefer the summer-based league format. The league has proven, in recent years, to be a more equitable and fairer competition. Playing a series of seven games in better conditions should lead to more competitive games and a greater chance for teams to develop across a season. It also means that every county will have a greater number of home championship games which in turn offers a greater opportunity for localised promotion of our games.

OFFALY (Michael Duignan)

I think the summer league is worth being explored. Feargal McGill gave a very good presentation on the options a few months ago and I just think the provincial championships are gone stale, aside from Cavan and Tipperary winning last year.

From a Leinster point of view, it’s being dominated by Dublin. In the league, you’re pitted against teams at your own level and the matches are very competitive so I think it’s well worth trying and I’d be in favour of it.

ROSCOMMON (Brian Carroll)

We haven’t made a decision as a county yet. This will be discussed at our county board meeting. I think it has a lot of potential. The last few years the league has been more competitive than championship in most cases and this would add even more bite to it. On the down side, I think the provincial championships would probably lose its attraction if it’s moved to before the league and not have any connection with the All-Ireland championship.

SLIGO (Seán Carroll)

Both options are a significant improvement on any previous structure, but I would prefer the summer-based league. We would also take the spring-based Connacht championship very seriously but more games at the prime time of the year is a key feature of the summer-based league.

TIPPERARY (Joe Kennedy)

I think the summer-based league format is the preferable option. It would provide much-needed games for developing teams at a peak time of year, vital for their improvement.

WESTMEATH (Frank Mescall)

Our management committee haven’t discussed the football championship proposals yet. I do know the players have a view on this, which we will take into account before the proposals come up at Special Congress later in the year.

WEXFORD (Micheál Martin)

It has yet to be discussed by our county committee, but we would be open to both proposals made by the Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force.

WICKLOW (Martin Fitzgerald)

Yes. I’m in favour of leaving the provincial championship the way it is.

Note: Waterford made contact but the chairman was not in a position to provide answers. Clare, Tyrone, Monaghan, Fermanagh and Kilkenny did not respond.

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