A new football championship format looks exceedingly likely for 2023.
Following the failure of 'Proposal B' to pass at Special Congress last October, the GAA went back to the drawing board and will now bring forward 'Proposal Green' to annual congress next month.
The key differences are:
- The provincial championships will be retained and played in between the league and All-Ireland series.
- The provincial finalists and next highest ranked teams from the league will make up the 16 teams in the All-Ireland 16 with the next 16 in the Tailteann Cup.
- The All-Ireland series will comprise four groups of four teams, seeded by provincial performance, with winners advancing directly to quarter-finals and second/third-placed teams into preliminary quarter-finals.
Speaking on the RTÉ GAA Podcast, former Dublin star Ciarán Whelan said that he felt the proposals were flawed, but could be worth trying as a first step to finding a better system.
"If you look back at Proposal B, which I have to say I kind of preferred, that was really putting the stake into the provincial championships," he said.
"It was radical and there had to be middle ground possibly.
"Everybody realises that the repetitive fixtures have become boring. Going out in early May and seeing Kerry tank Limerick or Waterford, that does absolutely nothing for the weaker counties. They have a turnover of players and they're not progressing.
"We all accepted there had to be some sort of change and there’s no perfect solution. We have to try something. But I’m not a huge fan of it to be honest. It was kind of rushed through.
"I can see loads of flaws with it. Three teams qualifying (from the group stages) is going to lead to a lot of dead rubbers at a time of year when we really want to promote our games.
"But maybe, just maybe, it’s the first step in a process to move forward.
"What’s going to be very interesting is the trial of the Tailteann Cup. There has been a lot of talk about the benefits of it for the weaker teams. We’ll see the proof in the pudding this year. It’s very easy for people to talk about promoting it. Giving it the same profile, All-Stars, all that sort of stuff. Will that actually happen or will it be diluted?"
"Look at this weekend alone. The focus is on the Division 1 games but the Division 2 and 3 games are actually more important for those counties."
Football's only nine-time All-Star Pat Spillane agreed that there were issues but said: "It's a start and I welcome it".
"The GAA might be slow at times but they do eventually accept and recognise change.
"They started with the back-door. It gave, supposedly, the weaker counties a second chance but what happened was the big guns that got beaten once came around the back door and were stronger. So the cream still came to the top.
"The Super 8s in theory was a great idea. More high-profile games, more money but it was underwhelming.
"This is not the silver bullet. Far from it. It will need a lot of tweaking. But at least it’s an acceptance that the championship as presently structured is wrong.
"I welcome the fact that there’s still a pathway for provincial finalists to get through. I welcome the fact that there is a pathway for the league placings.
"The Tailteann Cup is a great initiative, and the winners will be in the last 16 of the championship in 2024. But there is a strong possibility that the weaker teams will only ever be playing against weaker teams and standards will never improve."
Spillane's big concern is the hectic schedule that will be necessary to fit so many extra games into the split-season, which provides for All-Ireland finals in July from this year.
"It means more championship games," he highlighted. "There were 60 prior to 2018, 68 during the Super 8s and now, under this format, 99.
"My big problem is that they are squeezing everything into a tight frame. The league starts end of January and teams play seven of nine weeks. The provincial championships start the week after the league final and are played five weeks on the trot.
"Then you go into the All-Ireland series and they play seven weekends in a row. They’re free for one weekend, semi-final, final. You talk about player welfare, that is a crazy schedule."
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