It’s now nearly a week since The Super League idea was abandoned, two days after first being announced.
Given the speed of the modern news cycle, it would be understandable if we were questioning if the whole thing was a fever dream, but it did briefly happen and was prevented from becoming something worse by fan power.
Obviously, a breakaway European operation is never something that the GAA is likely to have to worry about. However, despite the successful splitting of the inter-county and club seasons last year, one shouldn’t get too complacent about the possibility of a bifurcation where county players no longer play with their clubs, similar to the province/club divide in rugby.
It is something that will be guarded against and, hopefully, it will never come to pass. One area in which the GAA is not unlike The Super League is in terms of short-lived competitions over the years, though, to be fair, most of them did at least get off the ground and have games played.
If we take ‘modern times’ to start at the beginning of the GAA’s second century, the first instances were the open-draw Centenary Cups in hurling and football in 1984. Cork came out on top in the hurling, beating Laois in the final and laying the groundwork for the All-Ireland win that September, while Meath’s win in the football was the first step towards them becoming a real force under Seán Boylan.
With the competitions having proven successful, they were held again in 1985, this time as the Ford Open Draw Cups, but they didn’t capture the imagination to the same extent, as exemplified by the decision of Limerick not to enter the hurling and Dublin, Down, Kildare and Offaly ignoring the football. Tipperary overcame Galway in the hurling final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Cork’s footballers made the final, losing to Kerry, unfortunately giving more credence to Mick O’Dywer’s “second-best team in the country” back-handed compliment.
At a local level, the year 2000 saw Cork County Board run special county-wide Millennium Cup competitions at junior A and B levels. Courcey Rovers won the junior A hurling with Ilen Rovers the A football champions while Randal Óg and Liscarroll came out on top in the junior B hurling and football respectively.
Though these competitions proved popular among the entrants – approximately 100 in football and 75 in hurling – fixture constraints meant that they ran on into 2001. Divisional boards were naturally keen to ensure that the traditional junior A championships were not eroded and so the cups were one-offs at that grade but the junior B version proved to be a successful pilot for the county junior B championships, run on an open-draw basis among clubs not competing at higher levels.
The early 2000s saw further developments at both inter-county and club levels. It’s unfortunate that Tommy Murphy, a dashing footballer for Laois who was named on the Team of The Millennium, is now associated with the ill-fated competition that bore his name, running from 2004-08. Intended to give the counties below the elite level a meaningful competition, it never truly gained acceptance and hopefully the Tailteann Cup will fare better, if and when it starts.
The Munster Senior Football League was an interesting concept, with Cork sides Nemo Rangers and Douglas both coming out on top, but it too suffered from a lack of fixture space. More locally, the West Cork Senior Football Championship and City Senior Hurling Championships were good ideas that couldn’t properly take hold in a fairly crowded place.
The Tadhg Crowley Cup, a tune-up competition for football teams all over the county, filled the same space as the West Cork SFC, while the improved running of the county SHL meant that the city championship was bumped down the list of priorities.
Just because the concept doesn’t work out doesn’t necessarily mean it was a failure. However, as Hurling Development Committee chairman Nickey Brennan remarked when Kilkenny won the last-ever edition of a long-running competition, the Oireachtas Hurling Tournament, by beating Galway in the 1999 final in December 2000, “There just ain't enough Sundays in the year.”