A tiered All-Ireland senior football championship would best serve the game, according to GAA director general Páraic Duffy, but he admitted such a format will be difficult to achieve.
Duffy regards the current system, where 32 teams get the same opportunity to win the one championship, as “not sustainable” and admits in his report that the Super 8 All-Ireland quarter-finals addition this season is “likely to be a temporary arrangement in that it will allow the association time to devise a system that will meet the needs of less successful counties”.
Expanding on the issue yesterday, Duffy said: “I’m conscious that I don’t want to be passing the problem on to somebody else, but I do think, I honestly believe, at some point in the future it has to be a tiered championship. We have it in hurling. We have five tiers. I’m not saying we would have five tiers in football.”
Marrying a tiered competition with the existing provincial championships presents a problem, he admitted.
“Achieving consensus while preserving the provincial championships will not be easy. There are those who are quick to criticise the provincial championships, but it must be recognised that there is a strong attachment to them throughout the association, but we must find a way to give all counties the possibility of success in a football championship.”
Two years ago, Duffy and GAA president Aogán Farrell attempted to convince counties of the need for a tiered championship, but their message fell on deaf ears.
“We tried and we didn’t succeed in bringing in a tiered version. I do think down the line, it needs to happen, but it’s a very difficult problem. I don’t have the answer. We thought we had an answer at one stage, but it didn’t fly at all, which I understand and accept.
“I don’t think we can go expecting all 32 counties to be in the same competition. We have a three-year experiment, let’s see then. We have a really good structure in hurling, now.”
He knows the Super 8 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final stages is not an answer to the question of providing developing counties with more meaningful games, but he maintained the new initiative will improve the competition.
“There are grounds for believing that the revised football championship format will enhance the competition through eight additional competitive matches at provincial venues, contested by the country’s eight best teams.”
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