New season dawns with the same broken provincial football system

Dublin's dominance in Leinster and Kerry's strength in Munster has neutered the GAA
New season dawns with the same broken provincial football system

Cork's Graham Canty and Declan O'Sullivan of Kerry in 2012, the last time the footballers won the Munster title. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan 

CORK'S fate in the Munster football championship will be known on Monday morning. Well, kind of.

Some bright spark in Dublin, presumably, thought it a good idea to have the Munster championship draws in both football and hurling earlier in the morning.

The football took place at 7.30am and pitted Ronan McCarthy’s charges against either Kerry, Clare, Limerick or Waterford.

Surprise champions Tipperary, who won their 10th title by stunning Cork last December and ending an 85-year wait, were also hanging on in an either-or situation.

Not that there’s any great urgency because the first games won’t be played until the end of June and it will be July before Cork or Tipp enter the fray at the semi-final stage.

Before then it will be all eyes on the league with Cork joining Clare once more in Division 2 following last season’s Division 3 promotion while Tipp are in the third tier for another year.

And for all those football anoraks out there the good news doesn’t stop there either because the Connacht draw takes place in the evening.

The remaining pairings in Leinster and Ulster will be unveiled on Tuesday, thereby keeping everyone on tenderhooks overnight.

James McCarthy of Dublin is tackled by Seán O'Flynn of Laois in Leinster Championship action. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
James McCarthy of Dublin is tackled by Seán O'Flynn of Laois in Leinster Championship action. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Seriously, though, this could be an historic set of draws because they could be the last, bringing to an end over a century of history and tradition.

You’ll recall Congress should have debated a couple of motions governing the football championship which would alter the landscape almost beyond recognition if receiving enough support.

But, because, it was held remotely, Croke Park decided an in-person gathering was the only satisfactory way of debating matters of such serious concern, most unlike a conservative sporting body.

Once Covid restrictions are lifted to accommodate such a meeting, it will probably take place later in the year.

Why is it on the table at all? 

People have long given up on the old provincial system due to Dublin’s monopoly in Leinster and Kerry in Munster because it’s become too predictable and stale.

There are two options. The first is retaining the provincial championships, but in four groups of eight with some Leinster counties switching to Munster and Connacht, while one Ulster county would also head west to balance the numbers.

Each province would then be broken down into two groups of four for a round-robin phase. The winner of each group will progress to the relevant provincial final.

The second and third-placed teams, 16 in all, progress to Round 1 of the All-Ireland with the fourth-placed team in each group competing for the Tailteann Cup, a knock-out, provided they are classified as a division 3 or 4 team at the end of the league in the same year.

There would then be three rounds of 'qualifiers' to determine the four teams who would take on the provincial champions in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

So, this is how it would look: 

Round 1: Second-placed teams from provincial round robins against third-placed teams, covering eight games.

Round 2: First round winners drawn against each other and round 3 would involve losing provincial finalists against round 2 winners.

From there, the championship would finish with traditional quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

The second option would essentially move the national league format into the championship.

With each team playing seven matches in their respective divisions, it would then filter into an All-Ireland series.

In the 'Preliminary' All-Ireland quarter-finals, the teams that finish second and third in Division 2 would be drawn to play the teams that finish top of Division 3 and 4.

In the All-Ireland quarter-finals, the top four teams from Division 1 would be drawn to play against the team that finishes fifth in Division 1, the Division 2 winners and the winners of the 'Preliminary' quarter-finals. The All-Ireland semi-finals and final would then follow.

The Tailteann Cup would provide for the teams from Divisions 3 and 4 that did not qualify for the All-Ireland series.

The provincial championships would still be retained but as standalone competitions earlier in the year.

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