Collins labelled the provincial competitions as “dinosaurs” following the Banner County’s All-Ireland quarter-final exit against Kerry last Sunday and he’s reacted with disbelief to the latest suggestions put forward by Croke Park top brass.
Collins said: “The bottom line, and you can dance around it all you want, is any meaningful change has to centre around getting rid of the provincials.
“Anything else is only moving the deckchairs. Nobody’s prepared to grasp the nettle because the provincials are deemed sacrosanct but you can’t have meaningful change without them.
“That’s what Tipp and Clare get for getting above their station. It’s pathetic. If you take the championship as a horse race and the same horse keeps winning the race, what the people do is look and see how they can change the conditions of the race and give everyone a genuine chance.
“But the more the top guns keep winning, the more the odds are stacked in their favour. You need to give a bit of light to counties. There was a great buzz when we started to get on a run but that buzz must be experienced by other counties. I can’t understand why nobody is trying to stack the odds in favour of the Leitrims and Carlows. Give them a bit of a break rather than trying to bury them. It’s going to take a situation where Leitrim, and I’m not just picking on Leitrim, but a county won’t field because players are too disinterested.
“That’s not far away. Why would you bother training in the muck and shite for a structure that’s loaded against you. “One thing that should come out of this is they should make the Munster championship an open draw if they’re going to retain it,” Collins added.
Under the new proposed structures, the All-Ireland quarter-final stage will be run off on a round-robin system containing two groups of four, with each team playing three games to determine four semi-finalists. Former Tyrone star Brian McGuigan suspects that financial motives are at play.
And from an Ulster perspective, an All-Ireland contender could conceivably play nine games to win Sam Maguire, beginning at the preliminary round in the province.
Ex-Kerry stalwart Tomás Ó Sé also delivered a lukewarm response on his Twitter page, stating: “Positive yeah but the provincials and gaps between games are still a joke.”
Former Laois player Peter O’Leary commented: “That championship restructure seems to be more about generating more income than helping clubs.”
Based on this year’s championship, current All-Ireland semi-finalists Tipp would have featured in a group alongside Tyrone, Dublin and Clare, diminishing their chances of reaching the last four considerably.
McGuigan reflected: “I’ve briefly looked at it and it doesn’t solve the problem we have, basically cutting matches down for players to be more available to clubs. I can’t see the purpose behind it. It’s come out of the blue and what about the situation where you could have a dead rubber in game three of the group stages for a team that’s lost their first two games?
“Money is the main aim of it at the end of the day.
“It’s the GAA, it’s a massive business now but sometimes you have to look at players and player welfare. If Tyrone get to an All-Ireland final, we have scope for only one more club game until the end of September, which isn’t suitable,” McGuigan added.
Clare selector David O’Brien added: “I’d still prefer 32 teams in eight groups of four, with the top two in A and the bottom two in B.”
The big change would be the replacement of the All-Ireland quarter-final stage with two groups of four. They would contain the four provincial champions and the four round 4 qualifier winners, with each county playing three games each.
Each team would play one game at Croke Park and other two home and away. This creates the prospect of Dublin playing in Killarney, Tyrone in Castlebar and Mayo in Ballybofey. The top two from each group would progress to the semi-finals.
Home venues would be subject to approval by the Central Competitions Control Committee and would need to meet the criteria set down by the National Facilities/Health and Safety Committee.
Provincial championships would remain untouched.
Two teams tied on points at the end of the group stage would be separated by (i) result of the game between the sides (ii) highest score (iii) goals scored and (iv) a play-off.
‘Weaker’ counties rejected the notion of a ‘B’ C’ship after the provincial championships, which means 24 sides would be eliminated by the third week of July. Semi-finals would be played the same weekend.
Qualifiers would be largely the same, but, a Div 3 or 4 team drawn against a side from a higher tier in rounds 1, 2, and 3 would have home advantage. The current ‘A’ and ‘B’ format would also be discontinued.
Extra-time would be played in the event of a draw in ALL provincial and All-Ireland championship games. Only when teams are level after extra-time would a replay take place. Though not a part of the proposal, it was noted “there is clearly scope to further condense” the inter-county fixture schedule at provincial and All-Ireland level. A test schedule showed Aug 21 as a date for the All-Ireland hurling final.