By Darren Casserly
It looks inevitable that, despite much protest from smaller counties, there will be a second tier in the Gaelic Senior Football Championship. This could, however, be the much–needed change in the Championship. All you need to do is to look at the Hurling Championship and see how it can be beneficial to the game in smaller counties.
The argument as to why there are multiple cup competitions in hurling is the difference in ability at the top compared to the rest of the counties, but more and more, it seems like the gap is widening in football. The most extreme version of this is the dead rubber that is the Leinster Championship, which Dublin have won for 9 years in a row, and, with the score lines becoming more and more farcical, it seems there’s no end in sight. The tiered system in hurling has brought along with it championships that can’t be predicted before a draw has been made and there is no clear favourite.
Football has already been moving in this direction, with the creation of the Super 8s giving more playing time to the top counties, while smaller counties just watch, hoping that, someday, they’ll be there. It’s absurd for counties like Leitrim or Carlow to think that they could challenge for the All-Ireland for the foreseeable future, but, with other championships, they have the chance to win something meaningful at Croke Park. It doesn’t mean that they will never compete with the best, it just means that there will be less David and Goliath matches and, therefore, less hammerings, which are becoming common place in today’s Championship.
The way that some of the officials from these smaller counties talk about this system would lead you to believe that if they weren’t playing teams like Dublin or Kerry and getting hammered, there would be no interest in the game. I think that if their teams were competing with teams of a similar standard, there would be more interest, instead of supporters going to a match with virtually no hope for a win. There will always be supporters going to games no matter who they are playing because, for a lot of people, it’s important to support your county. The attitude of these officials shows how little they think of their supporters and, while there are some counties with not the most loyal fan base (I’m looking at you Galway), by and large, the support is always good.
Still, maybe I’m wrong and, if the new system doesn’t work, there aren’t that many options out there for weaker counties. It seems that, with the increasingly uneven distribution of funding, there are less and less ‘top’ counties, the divides are getting greater and there are only 3 or 4 counties that seem that they have the ability to topple the Dublin empire. The days of David trumping Goliath seem, for the most part, to be over and it might not be such a bad thing if David started playing someone his own size.