How the League could be even more relevant to the Championship

As the League is now over and the Championship beckons, it’s worth reflecting on how these two competitions relate to each other.

At present, provincial winners are the top seeds in the All-Ireland Group Stage, the second seeds are the provincial runners-up, the third seeds are the next four highest finishers in the League and the fourth seeds are a combination of the winner of the previous year’s Tailteann Cup and the next three highest League finishers.

This loads the seeding in favour of the provincial Championships, but, when you have weak provinces, it inevitably leads to the inclusion of weak teams as second seeds in the premier annual competition.  

Let’s speculate for a minute that Mayo beat Galway in this year’s Connacht decider, Kerry beat Clare in the Munster final, Dublin beat Kildare in Leinster and Derry beat Armagh in Ulster. That would leave the seedings as follows:

  • First seeds: Mayo, Kerry, Dublin, Derry
  • Second seeds: Galway, Clare, Kildare, Armagh
  • Third seeds: Tyrone, Donegal, Roscommon, Monaghan
  • Fourth seeds: Meath (Tailteann Cup winners), Cork, Cavan, Louth

On that basis, you could have a round robin group with both Kildare (demoted from Division Two) and Clare (third in Division Three), while also having a group of Mayo/Galway/Tyrone (All Division One) and Cork (third in Division Two).

The following is a suggestion to redress the balance between League and provincial Championships, which would breathe live back into the latter stages of the League, provide balance in the round robin groups and continue to retain a link between the provincial and All-Ireland Championships.

I suggest the top seeds are the top four finishers in Division One (which this year are Derry, Dublin, Kerry and Mayo), the second seeds are those placed fifth and sixth in Division One, along with those placed first and second in Division Two (i.e. Tyrone, Galway, Donegal and Armagh). The third seeds would then be a combination of the previous year’s Tailteann Cup winner with the two demoted Division One teams and the third-placed Division Two team (so Meath, Roscommon, Monaghan and Cavan).

Let’s again take the provincial speculation above to populate the fourth seeds for the group stage. The provincial winners are the qualifying team, but if they have already qualified as a higher seed, then the provincial runner-up takes their place. If both teams have already qualified, that fourth seed place goes to the next highest League finisher.

On that basis the seeding would be as follows:

  • First seeds: Derry, Dublin, Kerry and Mayo
  • Second seeds: Tyrone, Donegal, Galway, Armagh
  • Third seeds: Roscommon, Monaghan, Cork, Cavan
  • Fourth seeds: Meath (Tailteann), Clare, Kildare, Louth

Interestingly. you end up with the same teams, but with better balance across the round robin groups. But crucially, it would give greater relevance to the latter rounds of the League, as teams vie for higher rankings right up to the last round of matches.

Also, the spectacle of the Allianz helicopter arriving with the relevant GAA and sponsor dignitaries to present the league trophy in a provincial ground would be a promotional opportunity greatly exceeding the damp squib of presenting a trophy in a two-thirds empty Croke Park on finals day.

Making this change pre-supposes a few other things:

  1. Provincial councils are willing to play their Championships to conclusion by first weekend of March. (That might be a big ask!)
  2. No divisional League finals (at least not in Divisions One and Two).
  3. League to commence on St Patrick’s weekend and to be completed nine weeks later, i.e. in mid-May.
  4. In the League, demoted teams are rated below the promoted teams from the lower division (as is the current situation).
  5. Round robin Championship games to commence on last weekend of May as per current schedule.

Could this work? Are other/better suggestions worthy of consideration?

3 thoughts on “How the League could be even more relevant to the Championship

  1. Very interesting and a definite improvement on the current set-up. Problem, I assume, is the provincial councils.

  2. A very good proposal. As good as or maybe better than any other. The big problem i would imagine is playing provincial championship in February /early March but definitely worth considering and as stated more evenly matched teams in each seed.

  3. Louis there is just one problem with your proposal. It’s that it’s logical & the GAA don’t do that. I like it personally.

    The current format has it’s heart in the right place but it’s comprised itself to cater for the provincial councils clinging on the the provinces.

    I’d rather they bin the pre season comps such as the FBD & play the provincial as the warm up. Give the winners something tangible.

    And then use the leagues in their current guise or slightly tweaked & get your all Ireland & Tailteann semis from that.

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