If there were no other factors to consider, the ‘Super 8,’ as it’s been coined, would be a fantastic competition to increase attendances, build brands and create mouth-watering football during the peak periods of the summer.
The ‘Super 8’ was brought about because people wanted change. And if the urgent requirement was to build the brand and increase revenue, then it’s perfect. The elite eight teams in Ireland in a ‘Champions League’ to decide the best four teams in the country.
But wait! Revenue was down because the qualifiers weren’t drawing the crowds. But the qualifiers remain untouched. Twenty-eight counties still go through the four-round knockout system. If the qualifiers were bringing reduced numbers, why haven’t they being changed?
The quarter-finals were drawing healthy crowds and generated excitement. And the chosen final eight got to live the dream. Tipperary beating Galway in 2016 was one of the year’s sporting highlights.
But the question the GAA hasn’t answered is – what does this do to develop the games in weaker counties? Yes, the extra money will be streamlined into coaching but will young Timmy from Ballycastle be motivated if he doesn’t see Antrim playing regularly?
We’ll marvel at the round-robin battles when they arrive. But for the games to prosper in the weaker counties, they need an identity that only comes from a county side they can relate to. If children don’t have their own county star to emulate, eventually they’ll lose interest.
Laois had a motion proposing the round one qualifiers competed in four groups of four. While this isn’t necessarily an improvement on the ‘Super 8,’ it does at least assist the weaker counties.
Antrim, Louth, Wicklow, Carlow, Offaly, Longford, Waterford, Leitrim and London are still only guaranteed two championship games. At least four matches would give them their chance to generate interest among their juvenile players.
A proper championship structure starts with the foundation and grows to be a massive event. But everyone feels a part of it even if only approximately eight teams realistically can expect to win it.
Offaly’s Brian Carroll tweeted this week – “The turkeys have voted for Christmas at Congress today. First steps on the road to professionalism. Don’t worry about the rest.”
The market probably isn’t there for full time professionalism. But if the GAA aren’t careful, the brand among top teams could replace the identity of 32 counties.