As Dublin continue to dominate Gaelic football and only a few strongholds like Mayo, Kerry, Tyrone etc. looking capable of challenging them in the near future. Is it time we adopted a two-tier championship?
Everybody has an opinion on where the future of Gaelic Games lies, but when it comes to whether we should adopt a two-tier championship, it’s probably best to get opinions of those players who will be competing in that second competition.
Patrick O’Connor took a year out from the Wicklow football set-up last season, but he’s back in 2019 and the Blessington native believes having a two-tier system ensures that players in the so-called weaker counties have something to play for.
“I’m not really sure about the rest of them but I’d like to see the two-tier championship.” O’Connor said at the launch of Renault’s partnership with the GAA World Games.
“Obviously, you look at Dublin and Kerry, they’re miles ahead but I suppose if you had a two-tier, you’d have something to play for; that you could realistically win or have a good shot at.”
O’Connor believes players would be more interested in devoting their time to the cause if they had something tangible to play for and feels that it would be very competitive.
“It would bring more interest. Some people would look at it, you train five, six hard months slogging to be knocked out in the first two or three rounds.” O’Connor said.
“If there was a two-tier or a group stage championship, you’d have more to play for. All the tough training you do at the start would be beneficial and there would be something to aim for.
“We’re getting very competitive matches in the league. Obviously, when you get to the summer ball, it’s all guns blazing.
“If there was a two-tier championship, it would be very competitive.”
Dessie Dolan took a more roundabout way of approaching the subject, citing the failed Tomyy Murphy Cup, before coming to the conclusion that there seems to be more of an appetite for a second championship as things stand.
The Westmeath legend is more qualified than most to talk about the subject having played in all four divisions with the Lake County.
“My Dad trained Leitrim for four years, Westmeath for a lot of the times, they were in all of the divisions while I was playing, my Dad trained Longford as well so I know what it’s like in Division 3 and 4 and I’ve a good experience of it.” Dolan said.
“They tried this about 2007 where they had the Tommy Murphy Cup and if you lost your cup provincial, you were in the Tommy Murphy Cup and there was no qualifiers.
“People weren’t too enthused, there was war about it actually. The rule changed because people were saying ‘no, you need your qualifying games to keep the teams in the championships as long as you can’, but certainly I think nowadays, there’s more of an appetite for some sort of competition.”
Dolan believes it makes no sense to have Division 1 teams compete against Division 4 teams, because as things currently stand it’s impossible for weaker counties to compete.
“It just doesn’t make sense that Division 1 teams at the top, you see the levels, I’m not saying there’s not levels of preparation in Division 4, but certainly everything about the Division 1 teams, in terms of the finance, in terms of the backroom teams, in terms of resources, seems to be a different level to Division 4.
“That’s through no fault of their but certainly competing against each other doesn’t make sense. It has to happen.”
The one worry with a second championship is that it may struggle to capture fans attention and ultimately may be forgotten about before too long.
Dolan believes that to be a fair enough assessment but thinks it could prove to be the impetus for teams to get themselves out of Division 3 and 4 and up into the top-tier.
“That’s fair enough but the onus is on the teams to try and get up to the division where, let’s say you’re Division 4 and 3, you try and get into Division 1 and 2,” Dolan said.
“I suppose if you had a couple of teams going up and a couple of teams going down, it might be the incentive, not just one team every year, maybe if you four teams going up and four teams going down and there was a bit of a flow,
“That there’s an actual realistic chance of you getting into the top tier, that might keep the imagination. The onus then is on the county to improve and get to the level.”
Dolan used hurling as an example of where the tiered system works. The Joe McDonagh, Christy Ring and indeed, the Liam MacCarthy Cup competitions have thrown up some cracking games because all of the teams are at a similar level.
“Look at hurling. Hurling works because you’ve the different tiers in the competitions and that’s really why hurling is so exciting at the minute.
“We all love watching the great hurling games because the teams are even all the time and that’s why when it comes to football, you’re sitting down thinking, ‘jesus, this isn’t great’ or ‘it’s a bit boring’.
“There’s a lot of games like that in the football whereas hurling just seems to be end to end quality.”