Sunday 17 December 2017

Off The Ball: Compromise won't solve football mess

Back to the future? Wicklow players look on as Antrim captain Kevin Brady lifts the Tommy Murphy Cup in 2008 (SPORTSFILE)
Back to the future? Wicklow players look on as Antrim captain Kevin Brady lifts the Tommy Murphy Cup in 2008 (SPORTSFILE)

Michael McCarthy

Another January, another 'Championship Structures' debate. I'm not sure the GAA actually want to fix the system. How else can they keep us talking about them in the cold, dark months?

The latest proposals put forward for the Gaelic football championships by Croke Park will fail.

Their idea is to put teams in Division 4 of the National League into a separate 'B' All-Ireland competition after the provincial championship. It is a half measure and it won't work.

It's crazy to me that after nearly ten years of trying to find a solution, after God knows how many consultations, studies, and proposals, we've ended up back where we started - with the Tommy Murphy Cup.

Singling out Division 4 teams is unfair and elitist. You can't make an omelette without cracking eggs but the GAA have gone out of their way to see no big fish will be affected by this.

The obvious solution is to add Division 3 teams to the mix, and have promotion and relegation based on championship performance from then on. Are Kildare too big for the second tier this year? Were Armagh last year? Neither team are going to win an All-Ireland and both got themselves in this situation. Why are they being protected?

A proper 'B' Championship with half the country involved, and a real competition with genuine incentives. That's the only way this can work and really garner interest in the counties involved.

I honestly believe if the likes of Kildare were to compete and win this competition, it would give them more of a fillip to kick on and compete than a qualifier run and being hammered by Kerry would ever do for them. Shipping off the Londons and Leitrims to a competition on their own to avoid another round of qualifiers is insulting and will naturally be seen that way.

The issue here, as always, is the two-thirds majority from Congress that the GAA needs to blow its nose. That will naturally encourage such half measures and compromises. But when that happens, nothing happens.

The only solution I can see is to go for the jugular. Go with what will improve things for real. If it doesn't pass, let the "crisis" worsen. Stick to your guns and canvass for votes the next year. Convince Longford people they will never win the All-Ireland but winning a real 'B' Championship could be the greatest achievement of their lives.

Fight the good fight and don't compromise. Half measures are pointless.

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