SEÁN ÓG Ó hÁILPÍN says the time has come for the back-door system in inter-county GAA to be scrapped, in favour of a return to a traditional knock-out format.
The ex-Cork dual star believes removing the safety net for beaten teams would increase attendances, the intensity of matches and public interest in gaelic games.
“I think the back-door system has gone stale now,” said Ó hAilpín. “It has probably passed its expiry date and to get the punters in again, I think you need to go back to knock-out championship games on a Sunday afternoon.
“Please God there’ll be a big crowd when Cork play Tipperary up in Thurles (in the Munster Hurling Championship on May 29) but if a fella has something else on and he knows that win, lose or draw, Cork will still be in the championship, it’ll be easy to persuade that fella not to go.
“I think it’s probably going to go full circle again when the back-door system will start to peter out and it’ll be one bite at the cherry, which we grew up with.”
Ó hAilpín and the Cork hurlers benefited from the back-door system in the 2004 when they were crowned All-Ireland champions, despite being beaten by Waterford in the Munster final. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old added: “I’ve been part of a team that won an All-Ireland through the back-door so who am I to knock it? But the glamour has been taken away from it over the last few years because there has been too many games. People are spoiled for choice.”
Ó hAilpín’s 15 year inter-county career came to an end last October when he was axed from the Cork hurling panel by manager Denis Walsh. The Na Piarsaigh man believes Cork are capable of shocking Tipperary at Semple Stadium on Sunday week but isn’t sure if they have genuine All-Ireland credentials.
He said: “Tipperary are the All-Ireland champions and they seem to have a better panel on paper. From talking to the general public, people are resigned to the fact that Cork will go in as underdogs, which suits Cork.
“Mark my words, Cork won’t have any fear. Cork have a big game in them this year. But you can’t win All-Irelands by winning one big game. You need to be ready for a long, hard campaign and produce performances back-to-back.
“At this moment in time, Tipperary seem more suited to that than Cork. Cork can take a scalp but the big question is whether they can maintain that over the summer.”
Ó hAilpín admitted he’ll find it difficult looking in from the outside when Cork take to the field on May 29, adding: “I’d love to be still involved but I’m resigned to the fact that life has moved on. It’ll probably be tough watching the games over the summer but I just have to put an end to that chapter.”