That was part of a discussion I had with some people over the weekend who were arguing for a return to the four division league with twelve teams in each section and home and away fixtures. It would certainly provide more football for clubs and their players but would also mean that if your county team was successful then the chances are you would have to play a lot more games without your county players. They argue that there is very little between the bottom six teams in Division One and the top six teams in Intermediate football and that winning a league consisting of these twelve teams would be better preparation for staying in the first division.
I don’t necessarily agree with that point as I feel that the top teams in Division One just happen to be better than the others and have been historically. However it would make both of the top divisions very competitive which should result in better quality football which would hopefully aid the development of players thereby raising the skills levels of our teams. This in turn is bound to benefit and expand the pool of players available to county managers at all levels.
I also believe there is an opportunity here to revamp the senior championship which would not only please the county treasurer but suit the clubs as well. The teams in section 1B could be divided into four groups of three played off on a round robin basis with the winners of each group going through to play in the senior championship. This would ensure that the quest for The O’Neill Cup is open to all teams in the top two divisions but ultimately the first round proper consists of sixteen teams involved in eight first round games. As for the teams that finish runners up in the 1B round robin fixtures, they participate in the Intermediate championship thus making it also a sixteen team competition.
I am sure there would be scope within the third section to do something similar that would be a boost to both the Intermediate and Junior Championships and should prove popular with clubs by guaranteeing them more than one “championship game” without introducing a back door for the club championship. There is certainly a feeling among some GAA people that the present system is not working and it may have to be looked at. It will be interesting to see if the powers that be decide to revisit the issue.
Interestingly I would argue that the little leagues within the leagues actually make the divisions even more competitive and you only have to look at the results from last weekend’s games in Divisions One and Two to see that.