TONY LEEN: Is it time to rethink the Championship format?

Conflicting arguments on the retention of the traditional Championship format emerged from Killarney and Thurles on Sunday. 

Tipperary’s mugging of Cork in the Munster SFC semi final provided a needed shot in the arm for the ring-fencers of how things are. Neatly forgotten was the paltry attendance at Semple Stadium - 2,734 - and as many of them Cork supporters, surprisingly. 

When Tipp supporters took the social media Sunday night berating RTE for their patchy coverage of the summer’s first Championship shock, they should reflect how much it caught their own by surprise too, if footfall is a reliable barometer.

Nobody was expecting anything other than a Kerry win in Fitzgerald Stadium, but over 11,300 paid their way in all the same.

While it wasn’t a procession for the Kingdom, it was hardly a page-turner either. A day that began for the Clare footballers with a shiny new 161 team bus refusing to ignite in Cratloe ended more predictably - with thoughts of the qualifiers.

Colm Collins isn’t God - if he was, he’d have jump-started that bus engine - but straight after, he’d change the championship format.

“I’m not a great fan of the Munster Championship,” he sighed. “Clare were the last one outside the duopoly of Cork and Kerry to win it in 1992. If you keep something like that for a long time, it gets into people’s heads that it can’t be done anyway.”

The Banner is one of a growing group of counties measuring themselves these days by the National League. They’ll compete in Division 2 next spring, and will get half a dozen gut-checks before they face back into provincial purgatory.

“It’s fantastic the way the leagues are working,” he said. “It’s the Championship I would change.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice loves the challenge of week on week fixtures too. Ironing out the creases from Sunday to Sunday. Getting momentum and quality games. He wasn’t slow to confirm as much on Sunday evening.

“The league is a better structure. Watching Euro 2016 on Saturday, they were saying it takes seven games to win it. And they play it in a month. Five or six games can win you an All-Ireland and it takes three and a half months.

“We know that, we are conditioned to it at this stage, but when you are on a roll of games, I’d love to be out again next weekend, getting the lads in, working on things we need to fine-tune from the Clare game. That’s not the way it is though, and we are playing in three weeks again. And let me say, delighted to be playing in three weeks.”

I guess Peadar Healy would take it. But is it energising the audience? Can the seismic events at Semple even do that once the adrenaline subsides?


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