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Michael Murphy Makes Intriguing Point On Overlooked Consequence Of New All-Ireland Format

Michael Murphy Makes Intriguing Point On Overlooked Consequence Of New All-Ireland Format
By Gary Connaughton Updated
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Later this year, the Gaelic football championship will undergo possibly its biggest shakeup in the history of the competition. On the back of the introduction of the Tailteann Cup in 2022, this summer will see the GAA make another change that should make the format of the All-Ireland series almost unrecognisable to past eras.

The introduction of a round robin system for the All-Ireland series is something that has long been mooted. The idea was toyed with during the Super 8s era, although only eight teams featured in the format at that point.

Now, all 16 participants in the Sam Maguire will be placed into four groups of four, playing at least three games before the numbers are whittled down.

It should bring about plenty of exciting fixtures, although it may also usher in the death of the provincial championships.

Michael Murphy holds provincial concerns after All-Ireland change


For quite a long time, many have felt that the provincial championships were a rather outdated concept. The unbalanced nature of the competitions were certainly something that had an impact, with some counties being offered a far more favourable route to All-Ireland glory.

Suggestions to scrap the competitions altogether have never gained much traction, with provincial councils understandably hesitant to lose their showpiece events. However, the upcoming Sam Maguire format may result in a slow death for the tournaments.

The 16 teams in top tier is decided by league position, with the only link to the provincial championships being that finalists are guaranteed a place in the Sam Maguire competition. This means that many counties will gain no advantage by making a deep run in their own province and may well be incentivised to focus on the All-Ireland series.


Writing in his column for the BBC, Donegal legend Michael Murphy said it was inevitable that this format will lessen the prestige of the provincial championships in the long run.

It's a new-look championship this year with the round-robin format in the All-Ireland series. There has been an outcry for this year for years.

In Ulster, we've always been proud of our provincial championship and believe it's extremely competitive. But it's always been a different story in the other provinces, and as a result, there's long been a view that the competitive nature of Ulster gives those teams an unfair advantage when they go on to the All-Ireland series.

So, the GAA have stumbled upon a mixed approach. They're still giving the provincials their day in the sun, but they're providing a level-playing field in the Sam Maguire with the four groups of four.

It's a hybrid model that ticks a lot of boxes, but once we get stuck into the All-Ireland series, it will dawn on a lot of people that the provincial championships don't matter as much anymore.

If this structure is kept, it will become clear that the two main competitions moving forward are the National League, where your place will be determined for the upcoming championship, and the All-Ireland series.

When I was playing, I loved winning Ulster. When we were growing up, Ulster was everything and when you won it, it would give you such a kick going into an All-Ireland quarter-final, but that quarter-final is no longer guaranteed.

Yes, if you win it, you'll be seeded well in the group, but you'll still have three huge games to overcome to get to an All-Ireland quarter-final, so the declining relevance of the provincials is clear to see.

This is an obvious consequence of the new championship format. While counties will still be keen to triumph at provincial level, this seems like the first step in removing those competitions from the reckoning altogether in terms of their links to the All-Ireland series.


It will be interesting to see how the approach teams have in their own province develops in the years ahead.

SEE ALSO: Every GAA Championship Game On RTÉ, BBC And GAAGO This Summer

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