Opinion: GAA Championship structure killing competition

Opinion: GAA Championship structure killing competition

As per every other year in the Munster Senior Football Championship, Cork will learn next to nothing from their probable dismissal of another inferior opponent in the forthcoming semi-final on June 14, writes Peter McNamara.

Clare will be in the other corner of the ring at Páirc Uí Rinn, and even their captain Gary Brennan sounded just a ‘tad’ concerned today of the massive improvement they need to find between now and then in order to avoid a trimming.

Clare captain Gary Brennan and teammate Davy O’Halloran know Cork will provide much tougher opposition than Limerick.

“We are going to have to up it again big-time,” Brennan said in the Irish Examiner. “The level Cork are operating from, like they were flying high in Division 1 of the League all spring.

“Bar a League final that they would have been disappointed with, they were the form team for most of the spring. We know we are going to be up against it.”

Up against it? The performance Clare produced in their win over Limerick - particularly in the second half - would not leave a Division 2 side with sleepless nights, never mind a top-four unit from the highest tier.

And you have to wonder, did Shane Curran make a somewhat valid point on The Sunday Game regarding the ‘worth’ of London’s presence in the Connacht SFC and how such a theory could be applied to other provinces as well.

Granted, the Roscommon man was somewhat harsh in the way he got his point across to the TV audience. Still, he had a point in the first place despite protestations.

Yes, Tipperary did nearly stun the Rebels in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last year, but as Curran pointed out, these occurrences are far from being like clock-work.

Besides, the Premier County may be one of those so-called ‘lesser lights’ that are on the verge of bucking the trend of being also-rans.

Shocks, though, in the provincial championships these days are so rare it has become borderline exhausting to sit through these early-campaign ‘tussles’.

For instance, say Dublin were at full throttle for their tie with Longford in the Leinster SFC next Sunday at Croke Park, what would the winning margin be? Twelve to 14 points probably.

People in Ulster bemoan the fact Cork and Kerry find it so easy to reach their respective provincial final but there is a flipside to that coin elsewhere, particularly in the southern landscape, and maybe even in Leinster nowadays too.

The reality is, neither side learns anything about themselves until they meet in Munster and it could be argued having to battle for every inch in the Ulster SFC, as the primary example, is actually of greater benefit approaching the All-Ireland series.

Opinion: GAA Championship structure killing competition

Games in Ulster are competitive from the opening rounds.

Certainly, in the last decade or so, teams from the North have done exceptionally well at the business end of the championship.

There will, obviously, never be balance to the degree everybody is content across the board.

Yet, is there a case to be made for reassessing how sides from the third- and fourth-tiers compete in the championship?

Would it be possible to have those teams contest a mini-championship with the top four teams emerging to progress to, say, the third round of the All-Ireland qualifiers or, possibly, just the teams that were contesting Division 4 with the top two joining back into the All-Ireland qualifiers proper?

This is not to be at all condescending, but the fact remains that teams outside of the top two divisions of the league structure do not impact regularly enough so that both themselves and their opponents benefit from matches they are involved in around the country.

They train just as much and as hard as their more decorated opponents but still end up playing in two, possibly three if they are really lucky, championship games a season.

Obviously, before the All-Ireland qualifiers were introduced the minnows would have had just one encounter in their provincial championship and that would be their lot.

Still, have we not moved on again as an Association so that these outfits are facilitated from a structural standpoint to be better-prepared for meeting one of the top-end counties?

In many ways, the players that live in the shadows of those that feature at the business end of the summer campaigns make the Association what it is each year.

Nevertheless, they may gain more out of each championship campaign by competing among themselves with much more at stake than just two league points to fine-tune their gameplans and team selections before being pitted against sides that have greater experience of what is needed to progress in the championship.

As the system is at present, particularly at provincial level, it benefits nobody.

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