Two prominent Munster GAA officials have given tentative support to the idea of introducing two more teams into the province’s senior football championship.
Presidential candidate Sean Walsh and Robert Frost, who succeeded him as provincial chairman, have indicated they would be open to the idea put forward by the Football Review Committee.
Under the proposal, two of the three Leinster teams beaten in the preliminary round of their own provincial championship would enter the quarter-final stages of the Munster competition.
“There has been a lot of debate concerning the unevenness of the Championship structure,” said Walsh. “Nobody knew what the Football Review Committee proposals would entail but it is welcome to see they have proposed the provincial structures should be retained.
“That said, the unevenness of the Championship is a matter for serious debate and serious decision and the report will generate that.
“Speaking as a Kerryman, we have won 75 senior Munster titles and all I can say is we wouldn’t have won as many if we were in Leinster or Ulster with the amount of teams in those provinces and the level of competition there.
“There was no appetite to change the provincial championship format and that has rightly been recognised by the Football Review Committee. But they have opened debate for the possibility of increasing the number of teams in Munster and Connacht and that is healthy.”
Frost, whose recommendation to reintroduce the seeded draw was backed by the Munster Council for next year, would encourage additional competition in the province.
“My first reaction is it would be good for the province. Something has to happen. Anything that can be done to help the situation in Munster football has to be considered. I would approach any such proposals with an open mind.
“My only agenda is to try and help the four weaker counties in Munster. There’s an awful imbalance at the moment.”
Former Ulster chairman Aogan Farrell, who will line up against Walsh and ex-Leinster chief Sheamus Howlin for the GAA presidency in February, said keeping the provincial system is of paramount importance.
“When I read the recommendations the first thing I saw was not the eight groupings of four, it was the preservation of the provincial championship structure and that is something I am in favour of. This is a genuine attempt to save the provincial championships.
“It is important the four provincial championships are retained and if it is agreed this is the best way to do so, then we must endorse it. I don’t see a problem with the losers of the preliminary round in Ulster going to Connacht.”
Connacht secretary John Prenty fully expects the proposals will get their day at Congress and is generally in agreement with them.
“From what we’ve seen, the big fear people have would have had before this was that they would try to dispense with the provincial councils so we’re happy to see the Connacht championship, which is very important, preserved.
“With more teams in the Connacht championship it would be a good thing. Maybe the reason Connacht has not been competitive for a few years is that there hasn’t been enough teams in it.
“Some people questioned Mayo losing big games in the last few years. Maybe they hadn’t played enough big matches before the final. This will lead to better prepared teams and more games in the championship.
“From a financial point of view it would be a benefit too. We have only four games to take a gate from in Connacht at the moment [New York and London keep their gates] and we have no hurling championship so more gates would be bound to have a benefit for Connacht. All of our money goes to grassroots in some shape of form so that would continue on a larger scale.”
On the subject of New York not being counted among the proposed eight counties in Connacht, Prenty said: “At present if New York beat Mayo next season there would have to be a preliminary qualifier added to the fixtures because there would be 17 teams in the qualifiers. That would continue if someone was beaten by New York.”
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