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Today's Farce Should Spell The End Of The Super 8s

Today's Farce Should Spell The End Of The Super 8s
By Michael McCarthy
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Credit where it's due. We don't dole out the Marty Morrissey praise here too often, but "the coma in Omagh" is a pretty good one from the RTÉ commentator.

Today was an utter waste of time.

In Cork, Roscommon were the visitors for the second match in Gaelic football championship history with absolutely nothing on the line. The first was last year's Round 3 Super 8 games between the Rossies and Dublin. At least in 2018, Dublin had an All-Ireland semi final to look forward to. Cork and Roscommon did nothing this weekend but spend a lot of money and delay their club championship.

(Roscommon won by the way, in case you weren't bothered to check.)

The other game in Omagh mattered about as much as the game in Cork. With Tyrone and Dublin seemingly not bothered whether they play Mayo or Kerry next week, two teams lined out that you'd be disappointed with in the O'Byrne or McKenna Cups. Certainly the National League would be considered far too important for two full on second teams.

Two years ago, the GAA, in response to a justified backlash from club players, decided to cram the inter-county season into two short bursts, from January to March, and from May to August. For that, we've gotten earlier and rushed league campaigns, all momentum stopped dead by the April club month, and a packed championship schedule with All-Ireland semi-finals being played on the same weekend, and, inexplicably, lots of extra games.

At the same time as these calendar changes, the GAA reckoned it was time for more games in the hurling and football championships. The Super 8s were born from a desire to see the top teams compete against each other more often.


For what it's worth, any benefit of an earlier All-Ireland final to clubs is completely undone by the Super 8s, with more counties staying in the competition for longer than ever before.

So what has this left us with? Today, in early August, at a peak weekend in the GAA calendar, the two games today were what we were served up. Granted, last night's Mayo vs. Donegal game was at least an occasion.


What was on display in Castlebar last night was what the GAA will have wanted the Super 8s to be. It was a winner-take-all battle in front of a packed crowd. Mayo redeemed themselves and march on. A great occasion.


But was what we got out of that game worth what has been given up?

You could argue that Mayo, who have been beaten well twice in this championship, didn't deserve their last chance against the previously unbeaten Donegal. The classic knock-out nature of last night's game was what gave it that buzz. In poor conditions, it wasn't really that spectacular beyond the drama.

But we've always had knock-out games. The previous two rounds of the competition lacked any real drama because that element was taken away. Kerry and Donegal played the game of the season, but, in the end, it felt like a league game and neither was going to put it all on the line to get the winner.


The rushed nature of the calendar must also be taken into account when analysing the failure of the Super 8s.

Two classic hurling semi-finals took place last weekend in a blur. It was a fantastic weekend, but the coverage of biggest games of the hurling season have been cut in half.


In the football, both semi-finals are mouth watering. Mayo and Dublin going at it one more time should be epic. Tyrone and Kerry on Sunday should be a brilliant renewal of a classic rivalry from a decade ago, but with two new and up-and-coming teams.

But, again, can we savour and enjoy both games to the fullest capacity? Fans have six days to organise tickets and travel for Saturday's game, and it will be here and gone before we know it. Is rushing towards the finishing line really the way we should be treating the premier events in our great games?

The football championship desperately needs revamping. Developing counties need to be catered for and helped to improve. We need to find a competition structure that keeps fans coming through the gates. The Super 8s was an effort to have the top teams play more often. Three of the four games this weekend weren't worth turning on the television for. Most counties have been out of action for months. Who is this helping exactly?



SEE ALSO: 15 Years On: How A 'Marooned' Páidí Ó Sé Helped Westmeath Make History


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