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Martin McHugh: Championship back door 'has only helped stronger counties'

Updated: Tuesday, 18 Jun 2013 15:47 | Comments

Mayo eased past Roscommon in the Connacht Football Championship semi-final
Mayo eased past Roscommon in the Connacht Football Championship semi-final

Donegal legend and RTÉ football analyst Martin McHugh has joined the growing chorus demanding change to the structure of the GAA Football Championship.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport in the wake of a weekend which saw heavy defeats for Roscommon and Clare, and in light of a number of lopsided results in the provincial championships so far this year, McHugh says he is fearful that it may already be too late to implement something new that will boost the competitiveness of the Football Championship.

"Now is the time for change. I just hope it’s not too late," said the All-Ireland medal winner.

"We are losing counties every year. Even big counties like Roscommon and Meath are (uncompetitive) with a while. Looking at the back door draw, there is not a game you would be looking forward to.

"People told us that the reason for the back door was to help the weak counties.

"I don’t know how they figured that out. It has only helped the stronger counties, and, at this stage, I doubt (the GAA) are even making money out of it.

"To me the whole thing is a mess at this stage, and the GAA should have a good look at the whole thing, at club and county level, to see where we are going.

"How many games have been played this year so far, and we have only had one good game, Tyrone-Donegal, that people are talking about."

"In my opinion they should have eight groups of four" - Martin McHugh

McHugh said he doubted if the GAA have the wherewithal to rectify the problems, but feels that change is needed to protect the game for future players and fans.

"People have to make decisions, even for the sake of the next generation. It might already be too late because we have lost a lot of counties. There are only five or six counties there at the minute. If we lose one or two of those we could end up in a situation where football is less competitive than hurling.

"Are the weaker counties going to put in the work needed to get to the top or will they say it’s not worth it?

"I would like to ask the GAA have they the wisdom to deal with this now. I have to say, in my opinion, I don’t think they have."

The Sunday Game pundit was also less than optimistic about the quality of games that GAA fans have to look forward to in the provincial championships over the summer months

"When you look at the games that are left, you have a good Ulster Football Championship and a good Munster Hurling Championship and that’s all we have. We have had the Donegal-Tyrone game, and the next game to look forward to is Kerry-Cork or Dublin-Kildare. Now is the time to look at the structure."

And McHugh sees a Champions League-type structure as the way to go, at the very least on a two-year trial basis.

"In my opinion they should have eight groups of four, just for two years, and see how it goes.

"If you seed the teams from the league it will help the league as well. Teams will improve and get their chance.

"Of course there will be teams well beaten, but that is happening anyway. At least you are playing different teams and you will get the chance to improve."

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Previews, reviews and features of all the GAA Championship action on Championship Matters from 20:30 on Thursday 13 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).

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