Former All-Ireland winning Donegal manager McGuinness said he found it ‘genuinely disturbing’ that in all four major Croke Park games, the gap was so wide between the winners and losers.
Kerry hammered Kildare by 27 points while Dublin and Tyrone were 13 and 10 points up at various stages of their respective comfortable wins. In the fourth game, a final round qualifier between Donegal and Galway, Donegal won by 10 points.
McGuinness attended Sunday’s two All-Ireland quarter-final ties which resulted in wins for Kerry and Dublin and said the entire weekend left him seriously concerned.
He pointed to the introduction of the black card rule to address cynical play and said the GAA needs to act swiftly and decisively again to address the ‘chasm’ between the few strong and the many weaker counties.
“If that was a watershed motion to deal with cynical play then I would suggest that this weekend is a watershed moment for the actual All-Ireland football championship,” McGuinness, wrote in The Irish Times, maintaining ‘the GAA has to address this issue urgently’.
A clearly frustrated Duffy, however, described it is as ‘the same argument, year after year’. Speaking at the launch of the FEXCO Asian Gaelic Games, he made light of McGuinness’ apparent ‘doomsday’ scenario.
“Let me tell you this, in a couple of months’ time the Rugby World Cup will take place,” said Duffy. “Uruguay are in it and Canada and the US. I’m not an expert, that’s three or four that I can think of, but have they any chance of winning the Rugby World Cup?
“Will there be hammerings in it? Will there be one-sided games in it? Of course there will. But I don’t see any clamour in the Irish papers, of people saying, ‘keep these teams out of the Rugby World cup, they shouldn’t be in it’.
“The Premiership starts next weekend, I can tell you now the top four. I’m no expert in soccer but everyone knows who the top four will be. I don’t hear any clamours about the teams that can’t compete at the bottom, the Bournemouths and so on.
“We need to get a sense of perspective. We’ve lost a sense of perspective around this. Every team doesn’t have to be in the competition just to win it. Because if that’s the case then we’ll end up with a competition with four and six teams in every competition.” The Monaghan man added: “The point I’m making is, unless you have a model like the NFL, and that doesn’t always work, you’re never going to come up with equilibrium. Resources will always come into it. It’s the same in all sports.
“You’re never going to make Dublin equal with Longford or Leitrim or Monaghan or Carlow, it’s not going to happen. Just accept that. And enjoy the days when the likes of Sligo come through or Fermanagh. Enjoy them and value them.”
McGuinness believes that investment is required in the weaker counties just to allow them to compete. He included Kildare in his argument following huge defeats to Dublin and Kerry this summer.
“Kildare’s hammering at the weekend had nothing to do with what Jim McGuinness was talking about,” responded Duffy. “Kildare have a population of 200,000 people. In Kildare’s case, they need to look at themselves and why did they get beaten by that amount.
“The likes of the small counties, it’s a different story. It’s one of resources and we should accept that. Okay, if we can come up with a better Championship model... and we are hoping to do that. But I’m chairman of a small group that was set up as a result of Eugene McGee’s report, the Football Review Committee report, and one of the things they asked for was that I chair a small group to see how we could help the weaker counties.
“As part of that process, we asked the GPA to put a survey in front of the players from 10 of the less successful counties. We did that, in relationship to championship structure. The single most favoured response was that we leave things as they are.”
McGuinness claimed that crowds will ultimately dwindle if the trend of one-sided Championship games isn’t arrested.
Veteran Dublin forward Alan Brogan, whose side have won games by 27, 19, 13 and eight points this summer, agreed.
“People will stop coming,” warned Brogan. “I’m not sure if I’d be too interested in going to watch matches where Dublin are winning by 25 points or somebody else is winning by 25 points. Certainly it’s something that has to be looked at and I would imagine probably sooner rather than later.” Duffy was bullish about the attendance issue though and insisted numbers are holding up well.
“Jim McGuinness is saying 60,000 could become 30,000, all this negativity, and we’ve had a huge amount of it from columnists and all the rest,” said Duffy. “I was at the Ulster final in Clones, packed house. We could have sold more tickets if we had them. You had 58,000 people here last Sunday. Crowds are up, so it’s a matter of opinion.”