Former GAA president Seán Kelly believes a tiered All-Ireland senior football championship would help to provide “the magic bullet” solution for the competition, writes John Fogarty.
Kelly, who in 2012 proposed the championship be split into two after the completion of provincial activity, likes director general Páraic Duffy’s SFC plan but says it doesn't go far enough for weaker counties.
Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, the Kerry man endorses a version of his blueprint in combination with Duffy’s two four-team groups, with which he wishes to replace the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
“Run the championships exactly as proposed but instead of having all counties in qualifiers, have two tiers — the first top 16 (eight provincial finalists and then eight according to their league position) and then all the other counties in the second tier,” Kelly proposes.
“Have one knockout qualifier round, after which you will have eight teams left in each tier. Run the group stages for both tiers, exactly as proposed for tier 1, with regard to home games, no replays and such.” As Duffy outlines, the top two teams in each group would qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals
Kelly believes counties would get behind a second tier championship providing its closing stages were played on the same bills or weekends as All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in Croke Park Although a motion calling for a tiered championship was withdrawn last year due to a lack of support, Wicklow this week backed the idea.
Kelly remarks: “We have to ask, though, why counties which are never going to win the Sam Maguire Cup are so anxious to be cannon fodder for the big boys year in year out? Are they masochists? Can it last? It can’t. I had a recent conversation with Waterford football manager Tom McGlinchey who said the League is now far more important to the weaker counties than the championship. Doesn’t that tell you something?”