St. Patricks' Cathal Grogan and Conor Martin of St. Patrick's could be members of an eight-team senior grade who would compete in the 'all-county championship' as a sole entity. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Could it be that the sceptics - myself and the majority - were wrong to shoot the ‘all-county championship’ proposal down like an enemy aircraft in domestic territory?
It’s possible - and your writer is quite open to admitting it.
The ‘all-county championship’? Yeah, the one tabled by Westerns, Sean McDermott’s and Glyde Rangers, the one that was voted in favour of at January’s County Board meeting and then booted out when its credentials were mulled upon properly.
Its amateur scripture was less than convincing, but behind the poor writing was a valid idea. It may involve outside the box thinking, though it could work, it could improve standards and attract people back to games.
Radical thinking is too often frowned upon in the GAA and people vilified - and this may sound hypocritical from someone who was a ‘vilifier’ at the time of its inception - for coming up with something different.
The Review of Louth GAA document, which was produced in 2014, recommended that the ‘all-county championship’ idea be seriously considered - and given that football in the area couldn’t fall to an ebb any lower, what’s to lose by talking about it?
For ask yourself this: how many senior clubs are there in Louth? And I don’t mean those who call themselves senior. I mean real senior clubs, teams good enough to compete, not those who try to.
Of the 12 senior championship teams, eight are in Division One. Four Division Two clubs are in the SFC. That means up to 16 of the 38 clubs in Louth can claim to have senior status of some degree. And how many of them are really of adequate ability?
Harsh, but the reality.
Think of the standard of club football. Question the level of it. Are there many not currently in the Louth senior set-up who are shooting the lights out at club level? JP Rooney, Shane Lennon, Ronan Carroll… lads who have given superb service to Louth and are still the best around. Where’s the next breed of high-quality players coming from? How do we develop them?
Picture this: Eight SFC clubs in the senior league. The next 10 best teams in the county in the IFC and league. The next 10 in the junior league and championship. The balance in the novices’ league and championship. All leagues double-rounded with the respective championships divided into groups of three or four or whatever way works.
No promotion or relegation through the leagues, up or down through the championship. Play league games from February through, double-rounded divisions, and start your championships in April with the semi- and finals in July, while still leaving league matches for early autumn. This is, of course, all depending on how Louth fare in the championship.
All grades equal, competitive and attractive.
Have your ‘all-county championship’ begin in August with the seven SFC teams and the IFC winner, while the rest pool together in several groups. For example: Clans, Na Piarsaigh, Young Irelands and Dowdallshill, or St. Patrick’s/Cooley/ Cuchulainn Gaels…
The ‘all-county’ would be a straight knockout, with a back door.
There would be a ‘B all-county championship’ for the players in clubs who don’t make their group team for the ‘all-county championship’. St. Patrick’s/Cooley/ Cuchulainn Gaels B vs Newtown Blues B or Naomh Máirtín B or whoever for a competition in the same format.
The entire thing run-off in six weeks, taking us into mid-September, when club leagues could be finished and the ‘all-county’ winner advances to Leinster.
Potential grades breakdown - and the worse potential should be stressed - taking into consideration present league and championship standing:
Senior: Ardee St. Mary’s, Geraldines, Naomh Máirtín, Newtown Blues, Dreadnots, Sean O’Mahony’s, St. Patrick’s, St. Mochta’s (IFC winners).
Intermediate: Mattock Rangers, Dundalk Gaels, Cooley Kickhams, St. Bride’s, Clan na Gael, O’Raghallaigh’s, O’Connell’s, St. Joseph’s, St. Fechins, Dundalk Young Irelands (JFC winners).
Junior: Kilkerley Emmets, Hunterstown Rovers, Glyde Rangers, St. Kevin’s, Oliver Plunkett’s, Naomh Fionnbarra, Roche Emmets, Lannléire, Glen Emmets, Na Piarsaigh
Novice: Na Piarsaigh, Naomh Malachi, Stabannon Parnells & the current Division 3B clubs.
Food for thought, I suppose…
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