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Pat's view 'Late Late Show' model won't fix All-Ireland championship but we would all embrace change

The current regime means some as young as 15 are being subjected to the rigours of inter-county training

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Pat Spillane with his wife Rosarii

Pat Spillane with his wife Rosarii

Pat Spillane with his wife Rosarii

I PURPOSELY waited until the dust settled before I gave my verdict on the new structure for the All-Ireland Football Championship.

We would all welcome any change because the GAA's premier competition has been underwhelming for a long time, primarily due to the lopsided nature of the provincial championships in Munster and, of late, Leinster.

The issue I have with the new plan, which will be introduced in 2023, is that I can't fathom exactly what it is supposed to achieve.

Was it designed to close the gap between the best and the rest?

Well, we don't live in Utopia - and it certainly won't do that.

Just look at what has happened in hurling - which has a five-tiered championship.

There is still a chasm between the top and the bottom - and with Offaly dropping out of the Liam MacCarthy Cup this year, there are now fewer contenders than there were three decades ago.

Granted, counties will see more championship action in the new format, as there will be 31 more games, but the odds are still stacked in favour of the bigger counties.

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Former GAA President Sean Kelly

Former GAA President Sean Kelly

Former GAA President Sean Kelly

Under the existing system, they had two chances of reaching the latter stages of the All-Ireland - the provincial Championship and the back door.

They will still have two next year: finish in the top- seven teams in the Allianz League - which will be the best counties - or reach their provincial final.

Just as night follows day, the round-robin series, which is the final eliminator for the All-Ireland series, will favour the top sides too.

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GAA President Larry McCarthy

GAA President Larry McCarthy

GAA President Larry McCarthy

Granted the fact that three teams qualify from each of the four groups means there will be fewer dead rubbers.

But scheduling 24 games in order to get rid of four counties is bonkers.

The GAA's own goal, in restricting inter-county activity to the first seven months of the year, is going to impact on player welfare due to the increased number of games.

In the pre-pandemic era, the championship season lasted 120 days.

Next year it will be all wrapped up in 100 days. This schedule will lead to player burnout.

The new structure is a bit like the Late Late Show, in that there is something for everybody in the audience.

It reminds me of the old proverb about a camel being a horse designed by a committee.

We'll see how it all pans out next year. But I fear this new structure is not the answer.

One of the headline decisions at Congress was the passing of the GPA motion seeking the amalgamation of the GAA, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association.

Of course, this is a no-brainer, but passing the motion was the easy bit.

The hard graft starts now - for example, will the then-combined three organisations receive three times the current GAA funding? I doubt it.

And what about power sharing? Another splendid idea in theory.

But, trust me, nobody will want to relinquish power, or give up a title, or toss off their blazer or lapel medal.

Yet that is what has to happen when organisations amalgamate - if the new body is to be well run.

Me thinks the amalgamation of the three organisations is a long way off.

And I have to be honest. I wouldn't have it in a list of the top-ten priorities facing the GAA right now.

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GPA Chief Executive Tom Parsons backed the amalgamation of GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association

GPA Chief Executive Tom Parsons backed the amalgamation of GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association

GPA Chief Executive Tom Parsons backed the amalgamation of GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association

The GAA are getting as good as the government at 'kicking the can' down the road when it comes to really thorny subjects, like changing the age groups for under-age teams.

We are likely to have another special Congress in the autumn to discuss this issue, which is a very important one.

I don't really mind what the new upper age limit for minor football and hurling is, so long as it not pegged at U-17 level - which is the case now.

The current regime means that youngsters as young as 15 are being subjected to the rigours of inter-county training.

This entails lots of physical training, strength and conditioning programmes and an overwhelming emphasis on winning.

Don't kid yourself. Minor team managers are not too concerned about the holistic development of their players, about their schoolwork, or their development as teenagers with interests in music, art, or whatever else.

The majority of minor managers and coaches are solely interested in gilding their CVs, with a view to landing bigger jobs.

Youngsters in their mid-teens are neither physically nor mentally mature enough to deal with the stresses of championship football at inter county level.

As a result, players are already suffering from burnout, with the word now out on the ground that a lot of talented ones are walking away from football and hurling.

So, for me, any competition at U-17 level needs to be a developmental one.

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