GAA President John Horan supports two-tier All-Ireland SFC
By John Harrington
GAA President John Horan believes a two-tier All-Ireland Football Championship is ‘inevitable’.
And he revealed yesterday at the launch of the ESRI report, 'Playing Senior Inter-County Gaelic Games Experiences, Realities, and Consequences', that Central Council has written to all counties asking them what form they think a potential Tier Two Championship would take.
"We discussed it the last day at Central Council,” said Horan. “We put it to the floor for just a straw poll opinion. Every hand went up, everybody was of the view that it should happen.
“We have written to the counties and we have asked them to come back with what they feel should be the make-up of a tier two competition. We will take on board what they have to offer and we will present it.
“We are doing a bit of research as well into the performance of the Division Three and Four teams in the qualifiers in the last few years and see have they benefited or have they gained anything out of it.
“Have they beaten Division One or Two teams or are any wins they are getting in the qualifiers solely coming from beating Division three or Four teams?
“I think if you are going to sell it, you are going to have to sell it in a manner that makes it attractive to players.
“If you’re a lad playing for Longford for 10 years, I think you are entitled to a day in Croke Park in September, rather than give it to a 15 or 16-year-old who may drift away from the game in a year or two and never really value that experience so my hope would be that it would be a curtain-raiser to the senior final in September.”
Horan’s own vision of a Tier Two Championship would see all Division Three and Four teams who fail to reach a Provincial Final then compete for a Tier Two title rather than enter the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers.
“It would mean that those teams that go into Tier Two wouldn't play in the qualifiers, that the qualifiers would be a smaller competition restricted to maybe teams - and this is my own personal speculation on this - teams that are in Division One or Two or teams that get to a provincial final,” said Horan.
“So if a Division Three or Four teams or teams who get to a provincial final, they will get the opportunity to play one more game and get to the quarter-finals.
“You are leaving the door open for everybody to try and win Sam Maguire. You are leaving it open for everybody to go and win a provincial title.”
The GAA President is well aware there will be opposition in some quarters to a two-tier Championship system, but believes the majority can be convinced as long as it’s incentivised properly.
“It’s about how you present it to people and get people to buy into it and then hopefully you will deliver it,” he said.
“If we played it (a Tier Two Final) in front of the All-Ireland Final, picked an All Stars team from it and we allowed them to go on an All Star tour, and I think whatever team is involved might get the right to be in the qualifiers for the following year if their status hasn’t risen out of the League.
“I get a feeling talking to Seamus Hickey and talking to other people, there is a feeling there to go for it. County Boards seem to be in favour of it. It’s to get the players to buy into it.
“Look, it works in Ladies Football. It works in Camogie and it works in Hurling. I just can’t see why there is such a major resistance to it in football, but it’s there.
“If it happens in my time, great. If this is the sowing of the seed for it to happen going into the future, I think it’s inevitable, and I don’t think we should shy away from the debate.”