The wait goes on …

Yaaawwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn! Come back the NFL, all is forgiven. Come back the bloody FBD, likewise. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the way things are going, I’ll end up having to watch those overpaid nancy boys out in Austria or Switzerland or wherever the hell it is (Austerland? Switria?) or maybe, just maybe, I might have to start on that Sopranos box set that I was leaving till the long nights start to draw in once more.

Two weeks to go. I read somewhere the other day that we’re the very last county that’ll take the field in this year’s Championship. At this rate of going, it’s not potential injuries to players that should worry us, it’s the onset of old age. Galway play again this coming weekend and so, in a provincial campaign involving just seven participants, the Herrin Chokers will, by some fantastically demented piece of scheduling, have managed to get two Connacht championship outings under their belts before our lads even get to lace their boots. Why not play the fucking final while you’re at it before we get a run out?

I know my fellow Mayoman An Spailpin was getting all dewy-eyed recently about how great the Championship is and how redrawing it along fairer lines (oh, by the way, my notion of fairness simply involves having everyone starting at the same position and having to jump the same number of hurdles, at roughly the same point in time, to win the thing; how this happens doesn’t matter but a system loaded in the favour of the county which happens to need no such leg-up seems, to me at least, to be an unnecessary and intolerable perversion) would strip it of its magic. If this kind of waiting around for weeks on end constitutes magic, then I’m a Dutchman (come on RVP!). I do, however, share the Spailpin’s wonder as to how the Championship has managed to survive the test of time, though I’m not sure we’d agree on why it has. One thing’s for sure, though: the current bastardised format won’t last as long as the original did and another thing’s fairly sure as well – there’s no going back to the so-called Good Old Days. Onward and upwards it is, then, though whatever this leads to is anyone’s guess.

Now, where was I? Well, while we kick our heels on the platform, waiting for the 22nd June 3.30 pm express to show up, others get to experience their first taste of the summer’s Championship action. Down almost caused the second big upset of the summer, with Dan Gordon putting in a Man of the Match performance for Down as they held Tyrone to a 2-8 each draw in Omagh. This could be the start of Down’s re-emergence (and, as the only county capable of making Kerrymen poo in their shorts when they see those jerseys on All-Ireland day, this could be good news) or else it could be a useful extra game to get the Tyrone machine humming again. On balance, it’s probably the latter but the replay will certainly be interesting.

I was half-thinking of going to Croker today and, indeed, the Dubettes and I had firmish plans to do so until we got an invite to a kid’s show at the National Concert Hall which clashed with the match this afternoon. While the girls do like to don their Dubs’ geansais, they like their dressing-up attire even more so the Concert Hall it was, where the entertainment included a jester in a multi-coloured get-up, whose dance routine on YMCA suggested strongly it wasn’t his first time doing that particular turn …

But, as the late Terry Keane was wont to say, I digress. It sounds like we didn’t miss all that much in terms of action from Croker – the Dubs seemed to sonambulate their way through a fairly dire first half but they perked up a fair bit in the second half. 1-22 is a decent score to run up, regardless of the opposition but, for once, I’d concur with Big Tom’s analysis of the problems facing the Jacks: Meath’s departure from Leinster could well be the turning point for Dublin’s summer, sending them, once again, into the All-Ireland series unprepared and unready for the fight. Well, maybe not for this kind of fighting but I guess you know what me and my mate Tom mean.

That’s it – The Sunday Game has just started so the couch is the only place to be. Hang on, where are my sunglasses? The combination of those sofas and Davy Fitz’s shirt is too much on my eyes, even after that lad at the NCH today.

14 thoughts on “The wait goes on …

  1. Any injuries after the local campionship games Has anybody been added or dropped from panel?

  2. I haven’t heard of any apart from the ones that have been reported on in the papers over the past few weeks. I don’t think there have been any changes to the panel as yet either.

  3. Just out of curiosity does anyone know the score in Knockmore V Cross Game at the weekend ?

  4. Maybe I went a bit off the main road with the Marcus Aurelius stuff Willie. 🙂

    What I was saying about the Championship is that it’s not a bad thing that it’s unfair, because there’s no way to make it fair and maintain county boundaries. There is no way round it.

    What the Championship does deliver is the chance to beat your neighbour, the county you want to beat most of all. And that I think is its glory, and the reason it lasts through the years.

    The back door has taken from this but I think that’ll wear off – not least when the current economic situation means nobody’s going to bother their arse blowing a hundred bucks, between petrol, grub and everything else, going off to see Mayo v Derry or Mayo v Cavan.

    It’s my honest opinion that the maintenance of the county boundary and the fact that neighbouring counties play each other is the essential appeal of thing. Come August 75% of counties have no more involvment anyway, because it’s a knockout system. But the chance that they were the one to deliver that knockout blow is what keeps bringing them back season after season, year after year.

    The interesting thing here would be to ask Sligo which they preferred – the back door of 2002 or 2003 (not sure when exactly), or last year’s Connacht title. I think it’d tell a lot.

  5. I take your point, Spailpin, about local rivalries and I think you’re correct in concluding that this is a major part of the reason in why the championship has endured down the years. And yet … I think it is a major flaw to have the lop-sided provinces we have and if Kerry skate easily to a five-in-a-row (which could well happen and in pursuit of which the current championship design will help them greatly), the case for more radical change will, I think, start to become unstoppable. The odd good local match (cos they’re not all good, many of these local derbies are as poor as the worst of the qualifiers) won’t be enough to save a structure whose foundations are so rotten.

    The choice, I reckon, will come down between redrawing the provinces (Martin Breheny has already shown how this could be done with only a handful of counties moving) or scrapping the provincial system altogether. I can’t see the latter happening anytime soon but we need to keep watching what’s happening with the hurling structure, as this is where greater innovation (by necessity) has occurred and where radical change has been made earlier (not least with the backdoor). Ditching the provincial structure has already been mooted for hurling and I think it’ll eventually come on the agenda in football too.

    In the meantime, of course, we have Sligo on the 22nd to look forward to!

    All the best

    WJ

  6. This is the thing Willie. I don’t think the fact that Kerry are coming out of Munster is the reason they’ve won 35 All-Irelands. There’s more to it than that.

    That said, Kerry certainly have been the biggest beneficiaries of the back door system. But rather than redraw provincial boundaries I think the simplest option would be shutting the back door. That would be the option I’d prefer.

    The reason I’m uncomfortable with trying to change the Championship structure, to impose logic on it, is that the very nature of it is illogical in the first place. I’m worried that if logic is imposed it’ll be brought to its natural conclusion, which is to submit to money and we’ll all be playing rugby or else watching English soccer. As so many of us are doing now anyway, God help us all.

  7. I think its time for the GAA to Revamp the All-Ireland football championship. Here is what I think they should do. Scrap the provincial championships they are not competitive competitions in Connacht it is always between Mayo and Galway. Granted Sligo won last year but in general it is always between Mayo and Galway. Munster is the same With Cork and Kerry. Leinster is more competitive but Dublin always dominates. Ulster is the most competitive with Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal and Derry being competitive.
    The structure of the championship should be 8 groups of 4 teams.

    One team from each division… Teams from Division one would be top seeds. Division 2 second seeds division 3 third seeds and division 4 fourth seeds. The seeding would be based on the finishing league positions. I.e. teams promoted to division one would be top seeds and teams relegated to division two would be second seeds. This would make the league more competitive.

    The groups would be decided by open draw. Each team play each other team once with 2 points for a victory and one for a draw. The top two teams would proceed to contest the last 16 of the All-Ireland. The bottom two go into the last 16 of the Tommy Murphy Cup. From this stage each round is knockout.

    There are a number of advantages to using the system. This year the championship starts on may 11 and ends on September 21. A total of 18 weeks. Some teams start earlier some later Mayo don’t start until 22 of June. While Leitrim start on May 11. This to me is a poor way to administer the competition.

    From start to finish there would be 7 rounds that is seven weekends over the 18 week championship period. This would allow for replays and for breaks to allow club competitions to take place. The dates for games and possible replays could be decided well in advance allowing time for teams to recover. We have seen with the qualifier system that some teams could be playing 3 – 4 weekends in a row which is unfair.
    Also every team I guaranteed at least 4 championship matches.

    That’s my idea let me know what you think.

  8. Having a handy gallop through Munster hasn’t harmed Kerry, that’s for sure and with the back-door and provincial seeding, both Kerry and Cork are guaranteed at least a place in the last twelve, with one of them (usually Kerry) always in the last eight.

    I can’t see the back door being closed again. The reason it was opened in the first place was to do away with the situation where teams trained for months on end and then only played for 70 minutes. I can’t see return to those days, no matter what oil futures look like.

    I don’t think that imposing logic or fairness or whatever you want to call it on the structure will necessarily destroy it or bring it to what you describe as its natural conclusion. The GAA isn’t immune from the general drift to commercialism and the productisation of sport in general and this trend will continue, regardless of the Championship structure. If anything, the drift to watching soccer or rugby (which is also something that is happening regardless of what the Championship looks like) will accelerate if what’s on offer in the Championship continues to be a ludicrous, lop-sided set-up that favours the strong and hammers the weak. Those who watch Munster or Man U or whoever will recognise that they have to get over the same hurdles as everyone else to win their trophies and will, I think, become increasingly turned off a competition where this patently isn’t the case.

  9. Hi Nitram – was it you that posted this suggested structure on the Hogan Stand message board some months back? I used it in the post I did a few weeks ago on the championship structure. I like the simple and effective way that it ties the league and championship together and makes the whole inter-county year more meaningful. As things stand, the league counts for very little but if it decided your place on the championship starting grid, it’d count for a hell of a lot more.

    It’s all wishful thinking of course, for now at least, but I do think the day will eventually come for a structure such as this.

  10. There is nothing to stop provincial championships being run in parallel to a restructured All-Ireland championship. Two provincial contests in particular are very competitive (Ulster football and Munster hurling), and those particular bragging rights are very valuable to the counties that take part.

  11. Hi Willie Joe
    It was me that posted it on the hogan stand website. the football championship is flat so far this year, and games like Kerry V Clare, Galway V Leitrim are not going to make it any better. I think it needs a major revamp. The GAA if facing major competition from other sports. It need to move on. They have no problem changing the rules to make the game better i.e. taking a free out of the hand as opposed to taking it from the ground. They should be a bit braver when it comes to changing structures. The Mayo county board seem to change the structure if league and championship every year! . hopefully there will be a GAA president soon who will drive initatives like this.
    Here’s hoping

  12. Thought it was, alright, it looked familiar. The only twist I suggested to your proposed structure was to run the first knockout round (the last sixteen one) on a home-and-away aggregate basis before moving to HQ for the QF onwards. Could be a bit of crack, I think.

    It’s true that there’s plenty of innovation both at county level and elsewhere, e.g. in the women’s championship. I think you’re right that attendance levels will eventually dictate the pace of change. As things stand, the GAA won’t be too bothered but if crowd numbers start to fall significantly, then things could change.

    If the league and championship were joined up in the way you suggest, Nitram, then there’d be no problem, TJ, in running the provincial championships separately. I think the FBD might have to go, though …

  13. I think that the Tim Kelly Floodlit Engineering Challenge Cup might be under pressure as well!

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