Horan wants intermediate football championship by 2021


John Horan started his three-year term as GAA President last month

Newly installed GAA president John Horan has said he hopes that there will be two-tier football Championship by the time his term ends in 2021.

The hurling championship is currently divided into Liam MacCarthy, Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups but all football counties compete for the Sam Maguire.

It was agreed at congress last year that the new football format, with the quarter-final stage replaced with the ‘Super 8s’ group phase, would be trialled for three years from 2018-2020.

 “The big challenge for me comes in my last year, when the hurling and football championships are up for review,” Horan told the Herald.

“I would have hopes that we would end up with a two-tiered senior football championship. That would be one of my ambitions.

“We will have to give them time to bed down and see what way things are evolving.”

The idea of a second-tier championship has previously been proposed as a way of giving smaller counties a realistic goal to challenge for.

However, the unpopularity of the Tommy Murphy Cup, discontinued in 2008 after only five seasons, shows the challenges of persuading teams to embrace of a ‘B’ or ‘intermediate’ Championship.

Various motions seeking to reintroduce such a structure were defeated or withdrawn at Congress in 2016.

“I think if we put it together properly, we may get engagement,” said Horan. “I think the previous attempt to put together such a competition didn’t come to fruition.

“So, as part of that review in three years’ time, I would hope that we will end up with a two-tiered competition.”

Opinions are divided among the managers of sides who might be involved in such a competition.

London’s Ciaran Deely told RTÉ last summer that, as long as it wasn’t an afterthought, it could be  beneficial.

“If you have a proper tiered competition with promotion, relegation, All Stars, trips, extra funding and the correct promotion, there’s no reason why that wouldn’t work,” he said. 

“It doesn’t make sense… London, who are ranked 32nd, and Mayo, who are ranked second, playing against each other.

“Like almost every other competition in the world in all sports, you have tiered competitions. The best go to the top and the development teams are in a league below.”

Carlow boss Turlough O’Brien is convinced the second tier would end up a poor relation however.

“It would be a detrimental step” he told RTÉ Sport last month. “In the hurling, they talk about the tiered Championship being a success. I don’t believe it has been a success.

“If you’re playing in the Christy Ring or the Nicky Rackard, you see the coverage it gets in the media. Maybe a little paragraph on the sports page.

“Attendances are poor, there’s no coverage of the games and it’s treated like a second-tier competition by everybody. That doesn’t help promote hurling in my opinion.

Hurling is slightly different in that there’s a much smaller concentration of counties playing at elite level but in football, if you take out the top four counties, the rest compete quite well against each other.

“Every county has quality players that play at inter-county level.”


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