Sean Kelly says weaker counties must be given realistic targets

Former GAA president Seán Kelly says the Association must prioritise the state of the All-Ireland senior football championship and scrap their plans for a calendar year.

Sean Kelly says weaker counties must be given realistic targets

Kelly in 2012 set out his blueprint for the championship, maintaining the provincial campaigns but thereafter splitting them into two 16-team straight knock-out competitions. The nugget for the best two teams in the ‘B’ contest would be guaranteed spots in the ‘A’ equivalent the following year. All provincial winners would qualify for the ‘A’ championship as well as the best placed teams in the National League.

He is also outspoken against the calendar year and now believes it should be shelved with focus directed onto a restructuring of the SFC.

“The calendar year is nonsense, just mathematical thinking. Above all, you have to look at what’s practical and there’s no point coming up with suggestions that aren’t going to run. We’ve had too many of them in the last number of years regarding amalgamating the minors and U21s.

“If we look at Liam Sheedy’s Hurling 2020 proposals, they were passed because his first criteria was ‘what makes sense’ and ‘what will be passed?’ This notion of getting rid of provincial councils is a non-runner. They have tradition and they have an important role to play.

“The provincial championships are very important because in the GAA so much is based on local rivalries. People like playing within their province and that has to be recognised so how do you work within that?

“There are plenty of ways to do it. My proposal is one and another would be to have some sort of round robin within the provincial system.” Kelly revealed he has received support for his idea in recent weeks. “These results are an annual event and therefore people are becoming more aware of it. The mood for change is growing, which is very good, because as soon as the situation is addressed the better.”

He submitted his proposal to the Football Review Committee but neither party could find a date suitable to discuss it face-to-face.

“Then they came up with a proposal that couldn’t run. It made no sense to me because they wanted to make four provinces of eight, which is never going to happen. It therefore wasn’t given the time of day and just as well because it was never going to be a runner.”

The Kilcummin man stresses the need for two competitions within the All-Ireland SFC is of paramount importance now. “The mistake we probably made with the Tommy Murphy Cup was that it applied to only eight counties. You could be cynical now and say it should apply to the bottom 30 counties because everyone says Dublin and Kerry are so far ahead of the rest. That is probably true but it should be for about 16 teams, which would be fair enough.

“Every county would then see themselves having a realistic chance of winning and I just could never how these counties would go out and train, give it everything year-after-year to be basically cannon fodder for the big lads.

“The mentality is changing. Young people are smarter now. They have more choices and because of that they’re not going to continue to do this ad infinitum. We should recognise that and I would agree with them. I would not see much sense in being involved in something where you didn’t have a good chance of being successful.

“It would be fine if it was just a once-off but you’re talking about a lot of these players putting their lives on hold and the demands on them are absolutely unfair yet they’re willing to do it. You can only do it for so long. It’s crucial that they have something they can aim for and can realistically aim for.”

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