As we enter late June, the GAA Football Championship is just beginning to take shape, and for most of us, it's an exciting prospect.
Cork, Kerry, Galway, Roscommon, Tyrone, and Kildare have all reached provincial finals. We expect Monaghan and Dublin to follow this weekend. That's 8 of the last 12 in this year's Championship already decided (almost). Yes, Mayo and Donegal must negotiate the qualifiers, but we expect to see them again down the road. Exciting stuff, and there's a feeling that the summer is just getting going.
The problem is, a number of teams have already played their last game this year. Waterford, Louth, Wicklow and Antrim are all out of the 2017 Championship.
Is getting rid of these counties at the earliest opportunity really doing anything for football around the country? Does it help promote football in Wicklow for them to play two low profile games and go home for another year?
Leitrim may not be out of the Championship quite yet, but given their record in the Qualifiers over the years, they may not be far off it. They were dismantled in the Connacht semi final to Roscommon on Sunday, and will have an escape from Ruislip as their legacy for 2o17.
One Leitrim senior club player got in touch with Balls.ie last night and summed up exactly why the current system is detrimental to football in the county, both for supporters and players. Something needs to change and people need to talk about it.
As the dust settles on another humiliating defeat for Leitrim in the Championship one wonders where do we go from here.
From the top of my head I think we have won 8 championship games in the last 16 years. London x2, New York x 3, Sligo, (Wicklow and Waterford in the qualifiers). Beyond that, other than victories over London and New York, which don't really count, we've won two Connacht championship games in the 23 years since we won the Connacht title in 1994.
With a population of 33,000 (the same population as Castleknock) and 12 senior club teams, how can we compete in the same championship as the superpowers of Dublin, Kerry, Mayo etc.?
It's a sad state of affairs and until the media start highlighting this stuff in articles and podcasts, nothing will be done. The powers that be just seem to throw the carpet over the likes of Leitrim, Wicklow, Waterford, Carlow etc..
I have read a few articles today in the media saying that this year's championship is up and running and we are in store for a great summer's football, but on the flip side there is a bunch of teams whose summer is over and year on year it's the same old story. It would be great if you could highlight this in the media and hopefully get people talking about this. Hopefully restructuring the championship could bring a bit of joy to Leitrim and many other supporters around the country again.
Obviously feelings are raw after such a heavy defeat, but you wonder how Leitrim fans raise themselves to get behind the team year in year out when there is such little chance of success, no matter what they do.
A two-tier championship structure needs to be implemented immediately to give the likes of Leitrim, Wicklow and Antrim something to play for. Sure, they might get the odd win now, but will they ever win anything? Will they ever achieve the pinnacle of their level of the game?
It's a sad state of affairs that the county structure of the game means counties like Leitrim simply can't compete with the best. It's an unfortunate accident of birth that Emlyn Mulligan can never compete for a Sam Maguire, but Bernard Brogan can. There's not much the GAA can do about that. They can make a more level playing field though.
Most strangely for me is that the counties involved don't seem to want this. And that includes the players. It seems these players would rather delude themselves with the fairytale of "anything can happen on the day" and have their day out against the big guns, rather than actually fight tooth and nail to be the best of their level and win something. Is it easier to get hammered and say you don't have the resources to compete than it is prepare to the best of your ability and beat those at a similar level?
I would love to see Leitrim develop year on year to build themselves up to the level of the best team in the 2nd tier of Gaelic football. If they are good enough and win that tournament, they re-enter the big competition the following yea, and they do so with momentum, self belief, and a team that has achieved something. They don't do it to walk into Dr. Hyde Park for another roasting.
In hurling, the teams who are not good enough to compete at All-Ireland level aren't allowed to do it. They must qualify for the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Football teams don't need to reach any standards to play in the top tournament in the country.
Until a change is forced, there will be more days like Sunday for this fan and for Leitrim football.