The provincial senior football championships have been on life support but now they are suffering cardiac arrest. Despite a surprisingly better than expected 47,027 in Croke Park last Sunday, the combined 111,711 attendance for the four finals was the lowest in well over a decade, almost 5,000 down on last year’s poor crowds.
The GAA aren’t standing idly by as they watch their provinces in distress but tiers are only half the treatment. Without more games, how are developing teams expected to do just that.
With our defibrillator pads at the ready, we attempt to revive the provinces by giving the flagging peleton a jump. There have been few attempts to enrich the provincial championships but by organising more games between teams of similar strength the GAA could do just that.
One of our biggest grievances with the Super 8 was not only its elitist nature — how many counties beaten before their provincial final can honestly expect to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals having to win three qualifiers and two Super 8 games in seven weeks? — but inserting a league element to the Championship after knock-out.
In doing so, three-quarters of the participants themselves have been denied the opportunity to redeem themselves in the same competition. This proposal would add an extra 21 games but only minimal increase in the number of weekends in Munster and Ulster with no change in Connacht.
Not only that, Connacht, Leinster and Munster would all comprise nine matches, Leinster 23. Leinster would therefore require an earlier start, but that can be accomod- ated.
According to reports, Central Council will be asked to look at endorsing a second tier competition that ends in late July. So fears about our proposal adding to the amount of Championship games and thus discommoding the club scene further are therefore allayed.