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controversy Let’s review what was written in the document about the Tailteann Cup

Let’s nail the myth that the GAA is changing the format.

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The draw for the start of the Tailteann Cup will take place on RTÉ radio next Monday. Photo: Sportsfile

The draw for the start of the Tailteann Cup will take place on RTÉ radio next Monday. Photo: Sportsfile

The draw for the start of the Tailteann Cup will take place on RTÉ radio next Monday. Photo: Sportsfile

ONLY in the GAA could a brand-new competition which hasn’t even started provoke such a volume of commentary – most of it woefully inaccurate. I refer of course to the Tailteann Cup.

At least it is getting noticed. Last Sunday evening I tweeted the names of the then known competing counties.

To my astonishment the tweet received just short of 160,000 hits. Even if half those turn up to see a match in the second tier series over the next few weeks it will be a success.

For starters let’s nail the myth that the GAA is changing the format.

This is simply not the case or maybe it is just another example of the GAA’s fondness for ‘buyer’s remorse’.

On November 23 last year Croke Park issued a lengthy email detailing how all their championships would be run in 2022.

So, let’s review what was written in the document about the Tailteann Cup.

Format

• The championship shall be played on a knock-out basis.

• Round 1 and the quarter-finals shall be organised on a geographical basis with Northern and Southern Sections.

• The Central Competitions Control Committee shall decide, on an annual basis, which counties shall be included in each section.

• The draws will be conducted by the Central Competitions Control Committee.

• A Preliminary Round may be played if there are more than 16 eligible teams.

• New York will enter the competition at the quarter-final stage.

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• All games will be winner on the day.

• Home venues shall be used for Round 1 and quarter-final games, with the first team drawn having home advantage.

Exception: New York will play their game in Ireland, and their opposition will have home advantage.

So, the next time a manager/coach/player/pundit starts giving out about the GAA changing the format, just switch off the radio because they are talking through their hat.

Though there is one caveat which does need to be added.

This year’s Tailteann Cup is a one-year, stand-alone competition.

Confusion may have arisen because at the spring GAA Congress delegates backed a new format for the All-Ireland football series including the Tailteann Cup beginning in 2023.

Next year’s Tailteann Cup will be run on a round-robin format, consisting of four groups of four teams as will be the Sam Maguire series. Each team is guaranteed three games.

There is one catch. As in the Sam Maguire series, the four group winners qualify automatically for the quarter-finals.

The four second-placed teams will advance to a preliminary quarter-finals together with the three best third placed teams.

The last place in the preliminary quarter-final is reserved for New York. So, one of the four third-placed counties will miss out on the knock-out stages of the Tailteann Cup.

Stand-by for the outcry when this happens.

One wonders how many team managers bothered to read this document issued by Croke Park. The chances are they never received it from their County Board.

Granted, most County Boards appoint a liaison officer between the board and the manager.

Surely it should be part of their remit to inform team managers of issues like the format of the competitions they will be playing in.

But the GAA is a bit like the infamous Bermuda Triangle. The lack of meaningful communication between Croke Park, County Boards and team managements is astonishing.

The counties that will compete in the 2021 Tailteann Cup are as follows: Antrim, Down, Fermanagh, Cavan, Longford, Offaly, Laois, Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Sligo, Leitrim, London and New York.

Tipperary and Westmeath will join them unless they win their respective provincial semi-finals at the weekend, leaving 16 teams plus New York – who have a bye into the quarter-finals – in the competition.

Counties who featured in provincial semi-finals are exempt from the preliminary round draw so Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim and possibly Westmeath and Tipperary won’t be involved.

The North-South rule means the draw will be complicated and messy. The geographical divide up may be along the following lines:

North: Antrim, Down, Fermanagh, Cavan, Longford, Sligo, Leitrim and Westmeath if they qualify.

South: Waterford, Laois, Wicklow, Wexford, Carlow Offaly, London and Tipperary (if they fail to beat Limerick on Saturday night).

Frankly, the GAA has made it too complicated but nobody shouted stop when it was proposed.

Hopefully by the time the number of participants is whittled down to eight interest will have started to pick up and momentum will start to build.

But raging about the format is a bit rich at this stage.

Just deal with the reality - not forgetting that the winners will be the first county to be guaranteed a place in the Sam Maguire series in 2023.

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