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Tuesday, July 10, 2012
With Munster senior football attendances set to show a drop of almost 33% from last year, the attractiveness of the provincial competition structure is well and truly up for debate.
In light of strengthening budgetary constraints, the Munster Council may be compelled next month to bring back the seeded draw and keep Cork and Kerry on separate sides of the competition.
The absence of a Cork-Kerry final this year has had a massive impact on attendances with an estimated total crowd of 43,200 for this year’s five games, compared to 64,043 in 2011.
Down to brass tacks, it means the Munster Council will have less money to distribute among the six counties.
But is that a compelling enough argument to convince Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford that they might be better off having to beat Cork and Kerry to win provincial honours?
Certainly, the 9,139 crowd for Sunday’s final between Cork and Clare did not reflect well on the competition.
But what of the quarter-final and semi-final attendances that will suffer if Cork and Kerry supporters assume they are guaranteed a Munster final appearance every year?
Former Munster chairman Jimmy O’Gorman thinks he may have the answer. During his tenure, the open draw was sacrificed for a seeded structure for one season before it made a return. The Waterford man and GAA trustee suggests seeding Munster finalists could be a positive move.
"Something has to be done with the football," said O’Gorman. "The way forward could be for the Munster finalists to be seeded the following year. That doesn’t mean it will be Kerry and Cork every year. I don’t see how it would damage the hurling championship either.
"I’d be very strong and consistent on protecting provincial championships. You only have to see what money they have generated over the last decade and been sent by the Munster Council to clubs and county grounds.
"Whatever happens and I know it’s a very sensitive issue from a football point of view, the provincial championships have to be retained."
The sentiment coming from players involved in Sunday’s final is that the open draw should be retained.
Clare keeper Joe Hayes is emphatically against the return of the seeded structure in Cork and Kerry’s favour.
"I’m disappointed the GAA is considering making decisions about games based on money," said Hayes.
"There are four counties in Munster with 30 to 36 players in each training just as hard as anyone from January. Sometimes when you’re drawn on the better side of the draw, as we were this year, there’s a drive and a goal.
"Tipp have been unfortunate the last few years to have drawn Kerry but they will get their chance and you won’t see one or two of their players (Barry Grogan and Brian Jones) going off to America if they have a draw like that. You’d see an awful lot of fellas going to the States and retiring a lot earlier rather than hanging around and playing football. I hope Clare, Waterford, Limerick and Tipp fight against it tooth and nail."
Cork’s Donncha O’Connor also thinks the Munster championship should remain an open draw. He says the Munster Council’s problem isn’t in their structure but ticket pricing.
"It’s hard to judge crowds these days at matches, a lot of Cork supporters were probably down at the Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night that you would expect to travel to Limerick.
"In general the crowds have gone down. People can’t afford it now. €30 for a stand ticket? Make it €10 and try fill the place, leave kids in for free something like that."
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