The GAA president wants it. Aogán Ó Fearghail has never made his secret of his wish to see a “B” football championship, comprising the eight Division 4 counties as was last seen in 2008, returned to the All-Ireland calendar.
If the Central Competitions Control Committee were asked to choose, they too would plump for the return of a Tommy Murphy Cup-style competition with the winners either rewarded with a spot in the latter stages of that year’s qualifiers or the following season’s competition.
At this moment, it appears the “B” championship is what Central Council will forward to Congress next month.
Should it be voted in, then woe betide any team that find themselves relegated from Division 3 or fails to gain promotion from the basement division.
No qualifiers for them unless they reach their provincial final.
For Waterford currently residing in Division 4, a “B” championship is more of a clear and present danger than Division 3 dwellers Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.
Should any of that trio make the jump to Division 2 this year then fears of a lower tier competition can be cast aside.
But Clare manager Colm Collins asks why the resurrection of the Tommy Murphy Cup is being considered in the first place.
“The man it was called after was a fantastic man and what happened afterwards disrespected his memory in the sense it was allowed to peter out without addressing what the underlying issues were with it.”
Collins felt the GPA’s Champions League blueprint, albeit with a few alterations, merited more attention.
“The thing that kills me about it is the first thing in it: that the provincial championships are sacrosanct.
“To my mind, that defeats the purpose because any meaningful change has to involve the abolition of the provincial championships.
“I would love if they just trialled it at minor and U21 and adopted most of the GPA proposals.
“The only flaw I could find in the GPA proposals was it would take three games to get rid of one team whereas if the top two teams in each group reach the All-Ireland and the bottom two play in the B championship it would mean it would take seven matches to get to the final in the All-Ireland and B championship.
“I felt there was even an awful anti-climax in the draw for the championship this year. Imagine the buzz if you could draw a Derry or Wexford?
“Also, if half of the country were involved in a B championship, it would mean something more. It would be such a lift to win something.”
By the time Division 4 teams were automatically consigned to the Tommy Murphy Cup in 2008, Limerick were long out of it. But had that rule come in earlier, Liam Kearns doubts they would have been challenging Kerry for honours.
“When I took over Limerick they were 31st out of the 33 counties playing and we ended up contesting Munster finals and giving Kerry their toughest games in both Munster and in a Division 1 semi-final,” says the new Tipperary manager.
“We were ranked in the top eight if not the top 10 and we started from the bottom. We took our beatings from Kerry and it took us five years to get to that point and we had to develop a good U21 team but we learned from those beatings, came back and grew stronger.
“If we were in the Tommy Murphy Cup and they were our aspirations, would we have got to where we got to? That’s the question.
“Wexford were down with us around Division 3 and 4 and they came a little behind us and ended up in an All-Ireland semi-final. Would they have ended up in an All-Ireland semi-final being in the Tommy Murphy Cup?”
Kearns knows there is appetite for action in the wake of recent landslide qualifier results yet points to the ideal.
“I can see counties taking hammerings and wondering what they are continuing in the qualifiers but everybody told me I was mad when I took over Limerick.
“Wexford were a little bit ahead of Limerick but nobody would have said they would get to an All- Ireland semi-final. You’ve to aspire and be the best you can be.
“I would just wonder if the Tommy Murphy Cup would be the aspiration for teams.
“There’s talk of winning it giving you a place in the following year’s qualifiers and maybe that could work but for me all counties aspire to play in the All-Ireland.
“I don’t care what county you’re from but every boy playing football dreams of playing All-Ireland football in Croke Park.”
Kearns accepts the idea of playing a B championship final or semi-final prior to major All-Ireland games could be a solution.
John Brudair, the man who holds the position Kearns once filled in Limerick, is more of the opinion the GAA have to provide counties with games of more consequence.
“From our point of view, the league is a great competition.
“It’s very competitive but it doesn’t have an end goal other than staying in a division or gaining promotion.
“It’s not tied into the championship and it’s a long period of the season given over to preparing for the championship, which would be my biggest gripe about it.
“If it had a link to the championship it would be so much better.
“Very few other sports would have a four-month lead-in time to such a short championship. Why have that?
“By the time the league starts, a lot of teams will have done 10 weeks pre-season. That’s enough in most sports but we go into another pre-season after the league.
“I would think there needs to be something done as regards the training-to-game ratio and more relevant games.
“If you could have 12 to 15 relevant games a year it would be brilliant.”
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