Andy McEntee says weaker counties have to wake up to the reality that a tiered All-Ireland championship is the best structure for them and the competition. The new Meath boss opposes GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s plans to replace the quarter-finals with a round robin series, describing it as “a money racket”.
McEntee prefers a round robin format for the top 16 teams in the country based on their league standings with the provincial competitions being substituted. In the best interests of club players, he wants to see the championship reduced to three months in duration.
“The whole championship could do with a revamp. I would say that with a view to how club players are being treated and the very small percentage of players who are inter-county are dictating to the majority of players in this country. That doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s unfair.
“I know the effort Ballyboden put in. That’s at least a five-times-a-week gig for a club team. I know club teams who are doing more than that so why should one group of players be treated differently?
“A very simple idea, and I know it would be frowned on, but you have Division 1 and Division 2 and there are 16 teams. What about four groups of four, three games and the top two going into quarter-finals. You play every second week, you start in June and you finish in August.
“It gives you loads of time to play club football and gives you excitement. The idea of a championship weekend when everybody is playing, I think there would be a huge buzz about it. It would gather huge enthusiasm.”
McEntee remains a critic of Duffy’s reformatting — “that’s only more games for the bigger teams” — and is adamant the championship must be split in half.
“Counties in Divisions 3 and 4 have to accept that by and large an All-Ireland is out of their grasp. I don’t expect Meath to be winning All-Irelands every year but certain things are within our grasp and certain things aren’t. A two-tier All-Ireland system makes sense to me. You’re entering a competition that you have a chance to win and in which you can achieve something. It also gives you the incentive to get out of Division 3 and 4.”
It is McEntee’s intention to work with clubs in Meath, readily making players available who haven’t been getting game-time with the county.
“If you want to look at a model, you look at Kilkenny. A small county at the business end of things every year and yet their club fixtures are set in stone and you have all of Kilkenny behind Brian Cody and his crew because he’s fair and he’s straight and he’s honest with clubs and he understands that a county player is only a good club player. “I like to think we’ll be very fair with clubs. Sure, I look at the start of the league where we have two games one week after another then we have a break and have another league game.
“Now, am I going to ask a fella who has played the first two league games and likely to play the third league game to play a club game in between? That’s too much, that’s four weeks in a row.
“But guys who haven’t been playing who are on the panel, would I prefer to see them go and play with their club?
“Absolutely. I don’t like making hard and fast rules because you end up having to break them but I like to think I would be sensible and fair.”
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