RTE is reporting this morning that the Dubs are thinking about submitting a motion to next year’s Congress aimed at altering the championship structure to deal with the situation whereby provincial champions are the only teams that can’t avail of a second chance. Both ourselves and the Jacks were in this same boat this year but whereas this was the first time this had happened to us, the Dubs have lost three times in the past five years in the quarters so you can see why this “anomaly” is now getting up their noses.
That RTE story doesn’t include any details of what solution the Dubs have in mind but it’s likely to be similar to the one floated way back in early 2007, which I recall covering here at that time (when, incidentally, this site was but a pup). This would see a reversion to the pre-2001 situation whereby the provincial champions would face off against each other (dish ear this would have meant Tyrone v Cork and Dublin v us), with the winners progressing to the semi-finals, while the losers would face off against two teams from the qualifiers for the remaining two semi-final spots.
Most of the criticisms I had about this plan back in 2007 still, I think, ring true, especially the one about losing semi-finalists eventually starting to bitch about there being no back door for them and the fact that the quarter-final winners would have to wait around too long before playing in the penultimate round. In addition, there would also be the issue about how unfair it would be for the two provincial champions who lose at the quarter-final stage (and who would, inevitably, be on a downer) to have to face two pumped-up qualifiers who by then would have generated some serious momentum.
In the current environment, though, it’s easy to see how a structural alteration of this kind (if this is the kind being mooted by the Dubs) would be attractive to the GAA’s nomenklatura. Such a change would provide greater allure to the provincial championships – as the route to an All-Ireland semi-final would be a hell of a lot easier via the front door compared to the current set-up – and would also leave fewer provincial champions open to a sucker-punch from one of the qualifiers at the business end of things. Were such a change to be proposed, you could easily imagine it being passed at Congress.
The now-annual situation whereby some counties have to play for five weekends on the trot, ending up facing a county that has been sitting on the ditch for the same amount of time, demonstrates beyond doubt that some kind of change is required: let’s face it, anything would be better than this farcical arrangement. For my money, though, the whole rotten edifice stinks and what’s needed now is a more fundamental redrawing of the championship’s structure. There’s no point in my rehashing these old arguments all over again: here and here is why I think this is the case and what I believe needs to be done to alter the format for the better.
It’ll be interesting to see what proposals the Dubs do come up with about changing the championship structure and whether or not such a move sparks off a wider debate about what needs to be done. Here’s hoping it does.