The GAA has proposed a number of changes to the All-Ireland Football Championship which will be up for discussion at the Annual Congress this month. Although these changes have been heavily criticised by the club players association for not coming into effect until 2019, they will still prove beneficial for the game.

The first change is to bring in a round robin format of sixteen teams after the provincial championship stages. It has always been argued that the likes of Mayo in the Connacht championship and Kerry in the Munster championship have an easier route the quarter finals each year than Ulster or Leinster teams.

While the teams will still have to qualify the same way as before, the addition of the round robin does two things. Firstly, it eliminates the highly criticised “back door” rule which inhibits teams who slip up early in the championship to be allowed back in the draw through qualification. This was seen last year as 2016 All Ireland finalists Mayo negotiated their way through qualification after losing to Galway in the Connacht semi-final.

The second reason is that teams will have more competitive matches before the semi-final stage which makes for better spectating as well as teams getting the chance to be tested before the end of the Championship. An example of this is Kerry who only played three matches handily beating Clare and Tipperary respectively before beating Clare again in the quarter final. Their first real test came in the semi-final where their competitive campaign began losing out to eventual winners Dublin.

Image result for dublin vs kerry 2016

Dublin provided Kerry’s first real test during last year’s All-Ireland Championship.

The next change which could prove to be an asset to the championship is the added time rule. Replays can prove to be anti-climactic and will bring up the old conversation of “The GAA looking for money.” The added time will firstly encourage less criticism of the GAA as they will be seen to be improving the game for both players and spectators. The introduction of added-time will also make for certainty of fixtures. In terms of recovery and preparation for the teams it will allow for sufficient time for teams in between rounds. In cases where teams are expecting to peak for the third week in September, replays will cause teams to alter preparation and lengthen their already demanding seasons.

The final altercation to the championship is to bring back the All Ireland final to the third weekend in August. The main criticism this is attracting is that the football championship will over-shadow the hurling championship. Providing that the two championships don’t clash it would be hard to see any problem with this change taking place. The point the Padraig Duffy, GAA director general raised was that the hurling being moved back would allow for county hurling championships to take place earlier in better weather.

The criticism of these proposals comes in conjunction of the opening of new GAA facilities at the national sports campus in Abbotstown, Dublin. It is being said that the location makes it difficult for any teams outside of the Dublin area to use them, strongly favouring Dublin GAA. Duffy again denied this was the case;

If the facilities at Abbotstown served only to relieve that pressure and to provide excellent facilities for the playing of our games, it should be considered a very positive development. But the experience to date has been that the resource has been widely used by other counties in the province of Leinster, which is exactly as it should be, and that, as a training facility for Dublin county teams, use of the campus has been limited.”

Liam Ashton