Clare manager Colm Collins has slammed the GAA’s new senior football championship proposals as “pathetic", writes Jackie Cahill.
Collins labelled the provincial competitions as “dinosaurs” following the Banner County’s All-Ireland quarter-final exit against Kerry last Sunday and he’s reacted with disbelief to the latest suggestions put forward by Croke Park top brass.
Collins said: “The bottom line, and you can dance around it all you want, is that any meaningful change has to centre around getting rid of the provincials.
“Anything else is only moving the deck-chairs. Nobody’s prepared to grasp the nettle because the provincials are deemed sacrosanct but you can’t have meaningful change without them.
“That’s what Tipp and Clare get for getting above their station. It’s pathetic.
“If you take the championship as a horse race and the same horse keeps winning the race, what the people do is look and see how they can change the conditions of the race and give everyone a genuine chance.
“But the more the top guns keep winning, the more the odds are stacked in their favour.
“You need to give a bit of light to counties. There was a great buzz when we started to get on a run but that buzz must be experienced by other counties.
“I can’t understand why nobody is trying to stack the odds in favour of the Leitrims and Carlows. Give them a bit of a break rather than trying to bury them the whole time.
“It’s going to take a situation where Leitrim, and I’m not just picking on Leitrim, but a county won’t field because players are too disinterested.
“That’s not far away. Why would you bother your hole training in the muck and shit for a structure that’s loaded against you? One thing that should come out of this is that they should make the Munster championship an open draw if they’re going to retain it,” Collins added.
Under the new proposed structures, the All-Ireland quarter-final stage will be run off on a round-robin system containing two groups of four, with each team playing three games to determine four semi-finalists.
Former Tyrone star Brian McGuigan suspects that financial motives are at play in that extra games will generate more revenue.
And from an Ulster perspective, an All-Ireland contender could conceivably play nine games to win Sam Maguire, beginning at the preliminary round in the province.
Ex-Kerry stalwart Tomás Ó Sé also delivered a lukewarm response on his Twitter page, stating: “Positive yeah but the provincials and gaps between games are still a joke.”
Former Laois player Peter O’Leary commented: “That championship restructure seems to be more about generating more income than helping clubs.”
Based on this year’s championship, current All-Ireland semi-finalists Tipperary would have featured in a group alongside Tyrone, Dublin and Clare, diminishing their chances of reaching the last four considerably.
McGuigan reflected: “I’ve briefly looked at it and it doesn’t solve the problem that we have, which is basically cutting matches down for players to be more available to clubs.
“I can’t see the purpose behind it at all. It’s come out of the blue and what about the situation where you could have a dead rubber in game three of the group stages for a team that’s lost their first two games?
“Money is the main aim of it at the end of the day. It’s the GAA, it’s a massive business now but sometimes you have to look at players and player welfare.
“If Tyrone get to an All-Ireland final, we have scope for only one more club game until the end of September, which isn’t suitable,” McGuigan added.
Clare selector David O’Brien added: “I’d still prefer 32 teams in 8 groups of 4, with the top two in A and the bottom two in B.
“Or else they could have given a few more teams exposure to the big teams and games by grouping it from the last 12 – four groups of three with a provincial winner in each group.
“If you went with 12, you’d have four provincial winners, four runners up and four qualifiers.”