Championship structures in the GAA, it is an issue that seems to rear its head on a number of occasions every year.
It is clear that something needs to be done to inject a bit more excitement into the early stages of the football championship each summer, with the provincial competitions increasingly failing to capture the imagination of the public.
This month we will see two proposals for a restructured championship will go in front of congress, with a vote of 60% in favour from the delegates being enough to see a new format being introduced.
While 'Proposal A' would see a complete restructuring of the provincial format that would mean eight teams in each province and round-robin format, 'Proposal B' is seen as a more likely alternative. Essentially, it would link a county's finishing position in the league to a two-tier championship system, with the provincial competitions retained as pre-season competitions.
There seems to be some real momentum behind this proposal ahead of Congress. However, not all are happy with what they see as a lesser status for the provincial competitions.
Ulster GAA provincial secretary and CEO Brian McAvoy told RTÉ that the categorisation of the provincial championships as pre-season competitions and a couple of potential kinks in this system makes it a non-starter for him. He would prefer to see some sort of round-robin system introduced at provincial level:
What we are proposing here is that your provincial championships become your pre-season. That will be the only opportunity for a manager to have a look at potential players because there will be no McKenna Cup, no O’Byrne Cup - that becomes your pre-season.
Then your league-championship rolls into one. Every league game is a championship game. You lose your first three or four games and you’re in danger of relegation but you’re also out of the championship and you have already lost your main focus.
Moving then down a level to what happens with the Tailteann Cup which, unfortunately, hasn’t started yet but we’ll see it.
You can have a scenario where a team can finish bottom of Division Three in the seven rounds of league games, end up winning the Tailteann Cup – and when you see the likes of Tipperary and Cavan then it’s a very plausible possibility – and suddenly they’re not relegated, they’re promoted to Division Two.
Who would vote for a system that allows a team that is relegated to get promoted? It makes no sense. The team that should have been promoted doesn’t get promoted so there is an inherent weakness there...
Round-robins within the provinces are probably the answer. Some people will say Kerry this and that, they beat Cork by 22 points in a Munster final, but you’ll still be getting a number of competitive games within the provinces which will help the standards.
The scenario described above in which a relegated team ends up winning the Tailteann Cup is not one which likely to occur often, although it is a possibility.
However, this format does seem to have plenty of positive aspects. Each county would still have a chance to win Sam Maguire at the start of any given year, while also being put into a more competitive championship if they are not at that level.
The controversy about the provincial championships seems to be the only stumbling block.