The inter-county season has officially ended and as the long days stretch into the early evenings we can sit back, relax and look forward to a new decade of football in 2020.
Dublin are champions for the fifth year in succession and the rest of Ireland will be gunning to stop their championship streak of 37 games without defeat.
However, some may not even get the chance to halt a potential six-in-a-row if proposals for a two-tiered All-Ireland Championship passes at Congress.
With that in mind, we spoke to a few inter-county stalwarts who each shared their thoughts on the current issues facing Gaelic football.
1) Do you think talk of a tiered championship is the way forward? Any changes to the current structure you’d personally like to see?
Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials, Tipperary & Munster)
I’m not so sure, it has its merits if it’s promoted properly, but previous history (The Tommy Murphy Cup) has shown that if players are cast aside then it won’t be a success. It would make sense to form a working group of people from teams who would historically have been in the second tier and see what their solutions might be, as all the decisions seem to be top-down rather than bottom-up.
Rory Grugan (Ballymacnab, Armagh & Ulster)
I would like to see a total overhaul, as opposed to small changes every couple of years. Play the national league at the start of the year (no pre-season competitions). The provincials will most likely be retained, so run them off quicker and grant the winners some form of seeding for the All-Ireland Championship in the summer.
For the championship, I believe every team needs to have the possibility of playing for Sam Maguire initially if people are going to give the massive commitment. This could be done in a round-robin format, and then go into a tiered A and B straight knockout championship. One thing is for sure in the GAA, you’ll never please everyone!
Emlyn Mulligan (Melvin Gaels, Leitrim & Connacht)
I think the Champions League format is the best approach, groups of four with a team from each division in each group.
Top two in each group through to last 16, bottom two into another competition. Both finals on the one day in September. Holidays/All-Stars for both competitions to keep teams interested.
Mickey Burke (Longwood, Meath & Leinster)
Yes! We need to develop the game in every county. The two-tiered championship needs to be promoted and marketed properly by the GAA. It cannot just be lip service. It needs to be named properly for e.g. The Páidí Ó Sé Cup. The final needs to be on before a big game in Croke Park and on TV. Also, there has to be a carrot for winning it like re-entering the All-Ireland race.
Traditionally the GAA are slow to move and don’t do change easily. I’d leave the provincials as is, they are part of our fabric. I think a two-tiered championship is so important, two games for a county in the championship is not enough for the so-called weaker counties to develop. I would love a Champions League-style format of six teams where every county is guaranteed five games every summer, but this won’t happen.
2) Do you think the Super 8s have been a success and are there any changes you would make?
MQ: The key success of the Super 8s so far has been the wonderful games at provincial venues with brilliant atmospheres (Mayo Vs Donegal in 2019, Kerry Vs Monaghan in 2018). But ultimately it hasn’t fixed the problem of the unequal amounts of teams playing at provincial level. It may be the first draft of change though, through which we might find the right structure.
RG: The first year was fairly disappointing, but they’ve improved slightly this year with the provincial winners getting a home game first and a few big games in round two.
It’s also madness that one team gets to play two games at their home ground. For next year, Dublin’s ‘Croke Park/Neutral’ game should be played at an actual neutral venue.
Also, the nature of a round-robin is that there is the potential for dead rubbers, and that’s what most people didn’t like this year, especially Dublin vs Tyrone in Omagh. Any competition structure that goes from knock out to round-robin back to knock out is wrong in my book.
EM: A few changes needed, firstly take the group stage games out of Croke Park.
The two teams that win both their first games should play each other in round two, likewise the two losers. This should get rid of any dead rubber games.
There has to be a two-week break between the last round of group games and the semi-final.
MB: Overall, probably not. There are too many dead rubber games, the concept needs a slight bit of tweaking. All games need to be competitive.
3) What was your moment of the year?
MQ: Tipp beating Kilkenny by 14 points in an All-Ireland Hurling final. No comparison.
RG: James Carr’s goal against Mayo in the Gaelic Grounds.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 6, 2019
EM: Moment of the year for me was Leitrim getting promoted from Division 4 and getting the opportunity to play in Croker Park. Also to see Tom Parsons wearing the green and red of Mayo again. A huge achievement after what he went through.
MB: I think it warmed the whole country seeing Tom Parsons return to play with Mayo this year. I broke my leg in both places and damaged knee ligaments (2010), so I know how many lonely hours of tedious physio Tom would have had to put in, especially on those dark nights when nobody is watching.
It takes unbelievable dedication, commitment and drive to be back playing in little over a year at that level.