John Sugrue may be targeting a coveted spot in the Super 8s but that hasn’t stopped the Laois manager launching a broadside at what he labels a consumerist concept and a general move towards elitism.
Speaking at a press conference prior to the county’s All-Ireland round four qualifier against Monaghan this Sunday, the Kerryman was critical of the bump in the number of games that comes with the Super 8s.
“The reservations are that there’s already a congested fixture list, which was widely spoken about, and to a great degree, common sense would dictate that it’s taking fixtures out as opposed to adding fixtures in that the GAA should be looking at.
Sugrue, while mindful of Mayo's exit from the championship last weekend, believes the new structure will only widen the gap between the strong and the weak and there is a sense that further changes will inevitably come to pass further down the road.
The provincial championships may be a protected species for now but there is a growing body of opinion that they should be abolished in favour of an open draw championship, maybe even a two-tiered championship.
The Munster, Leinster and Ulster deciders were all damp squibs this summer – with winning margins of 17, 18 and 12 points respectively - but Sugrue made the point that there is hardly anything new in a small number of counties dominating the four provincial championships.
Just two Munster counties have won a senior provincial football title in the last 25 years, he pointed out. In Leinster, that number is six of the 12 although the spread is considerably larger in both Connacht (all five) and Ulster (seven of the nine).
“This is all rubbish as far as I’m concerned,” he said of suggestions that the provincial championships might one day give way to a new, streamlined competition.
Laois made a first Leinster final in eleven years last month, losing heavily to Dublin in Croke Park, but he was struck by the boost in spirits the mere presence in that game produced around Portlaoise and the county at large.
“I live in Laois now and there’s been a nice atmosphere around it and a lot of positivity around the place and people are genuinely willing the team to go on,” he explained at the county board offices.
“You take that away and the likelihood of playing in a bigger game like that is less achievable and less achievable … and the more and more you condense down these competitions to the elitist (sic).”
If Laois, promoted from Division Four in the spring, do see off a top-tier Monaghan side in Navan at the weekend then they would face an exciting but daunting run of three more games over the following four weeks.
Kerry and Galway are already in Group One of the Super 8s and one of Kildare or Fermanagh will join the winners of the Laois/Monaghan tie there. It will ask a huge amount of a squad from such a small county but Sugrue’s response to that was a droll one.
“But sure maybe there’s no place for small teams in the Super 8s. Maybe there is no place because it’s inconvenient because, at the end of the run of three games, your squad might be depleted and you might get a one-sided game and that would be terrible for the GAA!”