“Nearly every county has that dream still of winning a provincial crown.”
Former Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke wants to see the GAA football provincial championships kept when the Special Congress debates new proposals later this year.
There are currently two proposals on the agenda regarding potential changes in structure at inter-county level.
The first motion would create four eight-team provincial championships, with one team from Leinster and one from Ulster competing in Connacht, as well as two teams from Leinster playing in Munster.
The four counties that move each year would be the losers of the first-round of their native province so, for example, the losers of the Ulster preliminary round would move to Connacht.
The second would mean a league format for the overall championship, with the provincial tournaments played as separate competitions and ultimately not related to the All-Ireland series.
Malachy O’Rourke on why GAA provincial championships must be retained.
O’Rourke guided Monaghan to two Ulster titles in 2013 and 2015, having not won one since 1988. The Fermanagh native wants to see the provincial structure kept in some capacity.
“A lot of counties can’t say at the start of the year they are realistically aiming to win an All-Ireland title,” O’Rourke told Ocean FM’s Donegal GAA podcast with Paddy McGill.
“But nearly every county has that dream still of winning a provincial crown. I know as a Fermanagh man, Fermanagh have never won an Ulster title. I can only imagine what it would be like.
“It took me back to Monaghan and seeing how much it meant to them. It would suit the elite but I don’t think it would suit a lot of counties if the provincial championships were done away with.
“It takes the dream away from too many people.”
However, the former Fermanagh boss does admit that Ulster’s competitiveness far outweighs anything in the other three provinces.
“Without being disrespectful to the other teams in Munster, you still have Kerry and Cork on opposite sides of the draw,” O’Rourke added.
“Maybe that’s a wee bit simplistic as Tipperary won it last year, but you’d still be sort of looking at Kerry and Cork to come through without maybe being tested that much.
“Then they are straight through to an All-Ireland semi-final. It’s completely different in Ulster. Donegal and Down are in the preliminary round and if they want to win an All-Ireland they have a lot of hard games.
“Other teams can definitely plan things out a bit easier.”