Ideas needed as league no longer fit for purpose

Ideas needed as league no longer fit for purpose

Pictured at Bandon at the Premier Senior football championship was Tadgh Twomey for Newcestown keeping a close eye on Maurice Shanley for Clonakiltys. Picture Denis Boyle

THE GAA does a lot of things right, both from a local and national perspective, but there are a few clear and obvious ways where improvements could be made to make the games even better for players and supporters alike.

Ask anyone what the most exciting game of the inter-county year just gone was and they will probably say it was the All-Ireland football quarter-final between Galway and Armagh. 

It had everything. A thrilling comeback, last minute goals, a tasty schmozzle, a not so tasty eye gouging incident and, of course, a penalty shootout. 

It was certainly dramatic, and while the penalty shootout contributed to this, it was completely unnecessary.

Penalties are a necessary evil in soccer. 

They are needed as theoretically you could go hours without a deciding goal, so at some point something must be done to decide on a winner or loser.

In gaelic games that is not an issue. If the scores are still level at the end of extra time one simply has the throw in the ball and say “next score wins”. 

It would be a much cleaner and more satisfactory means of ending games. There would be no scapegoat in the form of a missed penalty taker either. 

The games would always be decided by a positive piece of attacking play, and the winners could say they won it out on the pitch, while the losing side would have to accept that the other side did more.

The only possible problem may be if there was a gale blowing down towards one goal, giving the team playing with the wind an obvious advantage, but as most inter-county and club games are getting decided in the summer months now that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Another area that could do with improvement is in the structure of the inter county season.

Pictured at Bandon at the Premier Senior football championship was Richard O'Sullvan for Newcestown avoiding the challenge of Clonakiltys Gearoid Barry. Picture Denis Boyle
Pictured at Bandon at the Premier Senior football championship was Richard O'Sullvan for Newcestown avoiding the challenge of Clonakiltys Gearoid Barry. Picture Denis Boyle

The league, quite simply, is no longer fit for purpose. 

Indeed, in the hurling next year we might face the situation where no team wants to actually win it, as to do so might damage their championship prospects. 

Waterford, Wexford and Cork were all damaged by going deep in the league this year, for instance.

And then once the league finishes we have a situation whereby we are going to be treated to an extremely competitive and cut throat Munster championship, while over in Leinster we can be fairly certain that Kilkenny and Galway will be in the last six of the All-Ireland championship, while Dublin and Wexford effectively play-off for the third spot in Leinster. 

There might be the odd exception to this, such as when Galway missed out on getting out of Leinster in 2019, but exceptions is all they are ever going to be.

The provincial championships are lobsided, and to be fair, a lot of that is Munster hurling’s own fault, as the championship remains sacrosanct and the five counties would not contemplate dropping it, but ultimately the Munster counties can have their cake and eat it too with a simple switcharoo to the season.

Get rid of the league completely and have the provincial championships early in the season, with a pathway to the All-Ireland quarter-finals guaranteed for the winner, in order to keep it relevant. 

Then go straight into a champions league type structure, with a fair split, to decide who else gets to the business end of the championship.

This solution would tick a lot of boxes and might even leave more time for the club championships, which is needed given the squeeze being put on dual club players.

In the past week Newcestown football manager Tim Buckley was speaking in the aftermath of his side’s draw with Clonakilty in the Premier Senior Football Championship when he admitted that:

“We were playing hurling last week, and for us, as a dual club, playing six matches in seven weeks – as a club, we’ll have to sit down and make a decision, which game we’re going to play going forward.

“It’s very difficult on the dual clubs, and very of them are doing it – a lot are only paying lip-service to hurling. 

"I think the county board have got to give us a break.” 

We have already seen the death of the dual player at inter-county level. 

Surely, we do not have to see the death of dual players, and indeed dual clubs, as well.

Dual clubs cannot be expected to play every week for two months. 

They must be given some leeway. 

They should be commended for attempting to play both codes at such high levels and not punished.

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