Former GAA President Sean Kelly has tabled a radical revamp of the national league and All-Ireland Football Championship, suggesting the game “needs two championships”, and proposes 16 teams fight it out for the Sam Maguire Cup after the provincial championships.
Kelly’s plan, which he unveils in an article in today’s Irish Examiner, sees the leagues and the provincial championships as the basis for qualification for a 16-team All-Ireland series. He believes the proposal merits examination and deals with a lot of the problems facing football.
“I am proposing a format that will restore the status of the provincial championships, will strengthen the national league and make the All-Ireland both a better and fairer spectacle for all.
“Leave the national league as is and the provincial championships as they are (i.e. let each province decide how to run their own championship),” says Kelly. “That could mean either retaining the status quo or possibly introducing a round robin series.”
Kelly also advocates a “Europa League-style” secondary competition, not dissimilar to the Tommy Murphy Cup competition that was his own brainchild as president.
“It was a good idea, but bringing it in after counties were defeated twice in the championship was a bridge too far,” Kelly accepted yesterday.
He added: “Do we need two championships? Yes, we do. After the conclusion of the provincial championships, 16 teams should go into the draw for the Sam Maguire Cup. The rest should go into the draw for the Tommy Murphy Cup (or whatever it might be called from here on in).
“What 16 qualify for the Sam Maguire Cup? Firstly, the two finalists in each provincial championship will progress through to the next stage. That’s eight counties, twice as many as the number that qualified under the old knockout system, which existed for more than 100 years, when only the provincial winners went through. As a further incentive, the provincial champions should be given a home game.
“What other eight counties would make up the final 16? After year one, the winners and runners-up of the previous year’s Tommy Murphy Cup would qualify. This in itself would give real status to the Tommy Murphy Cup. This brings the total to 10 counties. The other six counties (eight in year one) would be selected on their finishing position in the national league.”
Kelly outlined the main advantages of the scheme: “It makes the provincial councils stronger, it brings back the cut and thrust to the provincial championships, which have been diluted gradually in recent years.
“It gives weaker counties a real chance of success, as opposed to being cannon fodder, which we see every year.
“It also gives more bite to the national leagues, because your league position determines whether you go into the Sam Maguire competition.
“The two finalists in the secondary competition go into the Sam Maguire competition the following year, so not only is that an All-Ireland in itself, it’s a guarantee to competition at a higher level the next year. You’ll have movement of teams and progress, and the secondary final could be played with an All Ireland semi-final, with guaranteed coverage and big crowds in a full Croke Park.”
He also wants to rid minor football of the anomalies that exist at present with the backdoor round robin system.
“Tipperary have beaten Kerry in the Munster MFC twice in this year’s competition and yet Kerry are in an All-Ireland quarter-final this Sunday. Even most Kerry people find that puzzling.”
Kelly’s five-point plan for football
* Retain national league and provincial championships but let each province decide format of their competition.
* After provincial championships, championship is split into two following competitions — the Sam Maguire Cup and a ‘Tommy Murphy Cup’ secondary competition.
* For the first year, all eight provincial finalists qualify for Sam Maguire Cup with the other eight selected on their national league position.
* After year one, the top two teams in Tommy Murphy Cup qualify for Sam Maguire Cup along with six best league finishers who haven’t qualified through the provincial championships.
* Both Sam Maguire and Tommy Murphy Cups are straight knockout, open draw competitions.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved