FORMER Dublin midfielder Ciaran Whelan has proposed a major overhaul of the stale National League which he believes is full of ‘needless’ long haul games.
The former All Star, who bowed out of county football after picking up his sixth Leinster medal in 2009, has urged Croke Park chiefs to consider a new league format based on the current provincial system.
In effect, it would replace the current league with a round-robin provincial set-up and the four winners from each province would ultimately contest the semi-finals.
Whelan claims there’d be multiple benefits as players and supporters would be energised by more local derbies – to be played under lights on Friday and Saturday nights – while county boards would save on travel and accommodation expenses.
The second-half of his plan would see the league’s best performers seeded ahead of a Champions League style Championship campaign.
His plan neatly preserves the current provincial system, invests real significance in league form and ends the practice of rewarding teams for going through the Championship’s qualifier route.
The ideas are set out in a new book, Voices From Croke Park, which was published in association with the Gaelic Players Association and launched yesterday.
Whelan is one of 12 former players including Mikey Sheehy, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, DJ Carey and Peter Canavan featured in the book with royalties from the publication going to the GPA’s Past Players Benevolent Fund.
“If you had a provincial league system where games were played on Friday and Saturday nights under lights that would add a bit of spice, a bit of appetite,” claimed Whelan, who works for National League sponsors Allianz.
“You’re not getting good crowds at National League games between Derry and Cork or Kerry and Donegal.
“But from what I’ve seen if it was Dublin playing Meath or Kildare or Laois in a provincial league set-up, that would work better and would open up opportunities to replace the provincial championships.
“You’d have provincial leagues earlier in the year leading into a new (Championship) format.”
Whelan claims floodlit games earlier in the year are the way to go and cited the 8,000 strong crowd that watched Meath play Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup in Navan last season to back up his argument.
As far as the Championship is concerned, he would be happy to end the system that, this year at least, made it more favourable to lose a provincial game and build a Championship campaign through the qualifiers.
“It’s well recognised that the provincial championships in the current format are benefiting the stronger teams and the backdoor system seems the better way to go,” he claimed.
“You get four or five games on the bounce in July and teams are then better prepared as we saw this year.
“So this is kind of a solution to maybe keeping the provincial status (in the league) and maybe coming out of that you could have a seeding for the Championship.
“Every game from January/February would be critical leading into the Championship.”
Meanwhile, Whelan said he believes his successor in the Dublin midfield, Michael Dara McAuley, deserves to be named as a Vodafone GAA All Star when the team of the year is picked today.
“He was Dublin’s find of the year, there’s no doubt about it,” Whelan said “He had a great season.”
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