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brennan's brief GAA must urgently address the problem child that is the provincial championship


Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster senior football Championship final victory

Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster senior football Championship final victory

Tipperary players celebrate after the Munster senior football Championship final victory

Former FAI Chief Executive John Delaney once famously described the League of Ireland as the Association’s ‘problem child’.

Well, if the GAA has a problem child right now, it is surely the provincial championship structure that has been at its heart since 1884.

Last Sunday, two of the four provincial titles were won by Cavan and Tipperary footballers to great glee and happiness.

Cavan is a proud football county, but it had last won out in Ulster in 1997. Tipp hadn’t won in Munster since 1935 – the giant shadows cast by Kerry and Cork footballers, and fact that hurling comes first, last, and everywhere in between the county, kept their footballers in the background for so long.

It was a great afternoon for the sport. But for all the joy the two shock victories created, there were no parallel scenes in Leinster on Saturday night as Dublin strolled to another Leinster crown. Only once since 2005 has the Blue standard not been raised in the east.

Their 21-point win caused recent Westmeath footballer John Connellan to raise the white flag and write that “the once proud Leinster Championship is not dying, it is dead”.

More provincial trouble looms next month if Kerry hurlers win the Joe McDonagh Cup, and with it a place in the 2021 All-Ireland Championship. But the Joe McDonagh champions are slated to go into the LEINSTER championship.

Kerry would not go into the Munster Championship because they are not deemed good enough for the sacred cow that is the province's competition. Even though five games in the Munster round-robin, which will return next year, would bring the Kingdom’s stickmen on no end.

It’s just another example of the problems caused for GAA President John Horan and his colleagues by clinging to a system that a British administration bequeathed to Ireland centuries ago.

One short term change would surely be to try, initially anyway, to having close to equal numbers in all provinces. Would, say, two of Longford, Westmeath and Offaly footballers, the three Leinster counties that border Connacht, volunteer for a five-year stretch in the west to see how it goes?

Yet, while they would be getting away from the giant that is Dublin, would it be worth it? After all, Dublin will be the only Leinster county in Division One of the Allianz League next year.

But both Roscommon and Galway will be in the top flight next year – and neither was the best team out west this year, that was Mayo. Those Leinster counties would be going from the frying pan into the fire!

There’s no easy out for the GAA from this problem, except the one thing they won’t do – which is scrap the provincial system.

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