The Limerick, Sligo and Tipperary team captains have voiced public opposition to the proposed introduction of a ‘super 8’ format at the quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland senior football championship, writes Jackie Cahill.
The revamp, if voted through at the GAA’s weekend annual congress, will see a round-robin format come into play from 2018, which Sligo skipper Neil Ewing insists is driven more by “economic” than football reasons.
Tipperary captain Brian Fox, meanwhile, is disappointed that Premier County delegates voted in favour of GAA Director-General Paraic Duffy’s idea, even though players, team management and the football committee were steadfastly against change.
And Limerick’s Iain Corbett says that the ‘super 8’ system would favour traditionally stronger counties with deep panels.
Ewing said: “The overwhelming feeling among our squad is that it’s weighted towards the bigger counties.
“The most frustrating thing with the whole issue is that it doesn’t seem to address a lot of the inequalities that have developed over the last few years.
“Bridging the gap between the bigger and smaller counties doesn’t seem to have been addressed and it seems there’s more economic reasons behind the super 8 than football reasons. I’m sure that’s influencing some county boards as well.”
Fox, a key member of the Tipp team that progressed to the county’s first All-Ireland SFC semi-final in 81 years, believes that it will now be “very difficult” for any team to mirror those 2016 achievements.
He said: “For us making progress and to get back to the same stage, it makes it very difficult.
“The funny thing is, I wasn’t overly surprised (by the Tipperary vote). That kind of thing happens the whole time. Delegates are on a different wavelength whereas we’re in a bit of a bubble and we know what goes on because it directly impacts on us.
“Maybe our message is not going out to the wider audience but we’re not a political party either. You have a committee in each club but how many players are on those committees? That’s partially the fault of the players but it’s the committee’s fault too for not wanting younger lads.
“What’s happening is the feedback is not coming from the players to the top table, and then that’s not going forward to county board top table.
“But how can a club send out a mandate and say vote for it when they have no real information about it?”
Corbett agrees that the prospect of a team embarking on a run similar to Tipperary’s last year is now “fairly unlikely.”
The Limerick captain said: “It benefits the strongest teams with the strength in depth. It’s tough enough to beat one of the higher-ranked teams but there’s no chance of it happening two or three times.
“Tipp would have played the same 18 players for nearly all of their games last year and that’s really stretching your panel. One or two injuries and you’re really stuck then.”