Wednesday 21 August 2019

'That might keep it more competitive' - Ciaran Whelan reveals plan to revamp the Super 8s

Dean Rock of Dublin scores his side's first goal of the game during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 2 Phase 2 match between Dublin and Roscommon at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Dean Rock of Dublin scores his side's first goal of the game during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Group 2 Phase 2 match between Dublin and Roscommon at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

Former Dublin midfielder Ciaran Whelan has pointed to the provincial championships as a big issue that needs to be tackled in terms of the GAA calendar and the future of the All-Ireland Football Championship.

With the four final Super 8 games on the horizon, the issue of dead rubbers has raised its head again.

A pair of wins for Dublin and Tyrone in Group 2 has left top spot the only thing to be decided with the Cork v Roscommon purely for bragging rights. Things are a little better in Group 1 where a Mayo win over Donegal will see the westerners leapfrog the Ulster champions and take a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

But with Meath already eliminated ahead of their home game with Kerry, only one of the four games can be said to truly have something at stake.

This is the second year in a row that there have been dead rubbers at the end of the Super 8s, with Dublin hosting Roscommon in a meaningless game in Croke Park in 2018 and Whelan thinks it is becoming a real issue.

Speaking on The Throw-In, Independent.ie’s GAA podcast in association with Bord Gais Energy, Whelan said: "I just think that four-team groups can lead to a lot of dead rubbers in the final round of games.

"You have to look at it in a broader context in that we do have a couple of challenges in play with the GAA calendar. With the provincial championships still as they are, that puts significant pressure on the Super 8s.

"If you were to broaden out the Championship...looking at both years, one group this year is already dead, Meath are out and the same happened last year in a few of the games.

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"So you’ve only one game of any real context, albeit that Kerry have to win against Meath, just to be sure. With four teams and three matches, the dynamic can lead very easily to dead rubbers."

However, In terms of the future, the Sunday Game pundit believes that expanding the group stage, rather than scrapping it, is the way to go.

However, where this would leave the provincial championships and the club game, given the difficulties already existing in the calendar, remains to be seen, with Whelan believing a full review is required at this point in time.

"Trying to incentivise it, I’d have a broader view of a Super 16s or a dynamic of five teams in two groups where finishing top would get you to an All-Ireland semi-final and second and third would get you into the quarters," he added.

"So you’ve three positions up for grabs throughout the four-game process. That might keep it more competitive as there are incentives built into it. “Obviously, that leads to an extra game, it leads to an extra quarter-final and that puts huge pressure on the GAA calendar. I’m just making that suggestion in terms of an overall review of the GAA calendar.”

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