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comment If the GAA want to achieve equity they should split it into ten

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23 May 2021; David Clifford of Kerry kicks a point despite the best efforts of Eoin Murchan of Dublin during the Allianz Football League Division 1 South Round 2 match between Dublin and Kerry at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

23 May 2021; David Clifford of Kerry kicks a point despite the best efforts of Eoin Murchan of Dublin during the Allianz Football League Division 1 South Round 2 match between Dublin and Kerry at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

23 May 2021; David Clifford of Kerry kicks a point despite the best efforts of Eoin Murchan of Dublin during the Allianz Football League Division 1 South Round 2 match between Dublin and Kerry at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results’ - Albert Einstein.

It would be difficult to find a more apt description of the All-Ireland football championship. Without the safety net of a back door it is woefully unforgiving as Clare, Sligo and Down discovered last weekend. And the list of casualties will grow over the coming weeks.

Why anybody is surprised at the gulf in standards beggars belief. It has become the dominant theme of the championship - particularly in the last decade. Remember, since Dublin won in 2011 only two other counties (Donegal, 2012) and Kerry (2014) have reached the summit.

It is customary to blame the provincial series for the lop-sided matches in the championship. But the issue is far more complex.

Maybe we beat ourselves up too much about how uncompetitive the championship has become. In professional sport, where the cheque book is king, only a handful of teams ever win the biggest prizes.

Even though Manchester City have won three of the last four Premier league titles, it is one of the most competitive competitions around, with five different clubs winning since 2013.

Elsewhere, however, it’s a different story. Bayern Munich have just won the Bundesliga for the ninth time on the spin. In Serie A it is basically a three-club race between Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus. Roma were the last club outside this trio to win the title in 2000.

It is a similar story in Spain, where La Liga is dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid with Atletico Madrid in a supporting role. No club other than these three have won the title since Valencia’s success in 2004.

And the classic case of elitism comes in the Scottish Premier League which is essentially a two-horse race every season between Celtic and Rangers. Not since Aberdeen’s win in 1985 has a club outside Glasgow triumphed

In the GAA, counties occasionally assemble a team capable of challenging for the All-Ireland - but this is a once in a generation occurrence.

And it has become increasingly difficult for teams to sustain their effort over the decade it probably takes for them to progress from being contenders to actually having a real chance of winning the Sam Maguire Cup.

Don’t forget that Dublin won eight Leinster titles in ten seasons before they actually reached an All-Ireland final in 2011.

Irish News GAA journalist Cahir O’Kane produced a fascinating statistic this week.

Since 2010, only six teams outside the established elites have survived more than their maiden season after being promoted to Division One. And four of that six were relegated at the end of the second year.

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Meanwhile, Kerry have never played outside the top-flight since the league was re-structured in 2006. Dublin and Mayo each missed one season.

Division 1 of the League is the equivalent of climbers reaching Camp 4 on the ascent to the top of Mount Everest. The air here is rarefied and only the fittest survive.

In this context, Monaghan surviving in Division 1 for a sixth consecutive season is a wonderful achievement - and their achievement is remarkable.

Counties with bigger populations and more resources such as Meath, Galway and Cork won’t be playing in the top-flight next year, though Kildare will return after a three-year absence.

It would help if counties played more games – preferably against better quality opposition.

The GAA are due to vote on a new championship format later this year.

The more revolutionary option entails moving the National Leagues to the summer as a feeder for the knock-out stages of the All-Ireland championship and a second-tier Tailteann Cup.

Meanwhile, a stand-alone round-robin provincial championship would be played in the spring.

It won’t solve all the issues, but it is a start – if approved. In the longer term, the GAA must address the imbalance in their coaching budget which has seen the bulk of it spent in Dublin.

But these are minor issues compared to the elephant in the room – the gulf in population between counties. I live in the Dail constituency of Dublin Bay North which had a population of 147,879 in the 2016 census.

There were 272 fewer people living in Kerry.

Wicklow, Mayo, Louth, Clare, Waterford, Kilkenny, Westmeath, Laois, Offaly, Cavan, Sligo, Roscommon, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Carlow, Longford and Leitrim all have smaller populations than Dublin Bay North.

So, if the GAA want to achieve equity they should forget about splitting Dublin into three. They might achieve something if they split it into ten.

But to paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s character Col. Nathal R. Jessep in the movie ‘A Few Good Men’ the GAA can’t handle the truth.

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