Mayo will finally entered the football championship two months after it began when they easily beat Leitrim on Sunday. In the same period, teams like Longford and Meath have played three games.
Replays can account for some distortion in the fixture schedule but it does highlight the fact that the GAA provincial championships are beginning to look outdated and are struggling in the face economic troubles.
Munster and Connacht are vivid examples of this fact. In Munster financial considerations mean that unless Cork and Kerry are seeded and kept apart until the final the counties will face a sizeable drop in income.
Sean Walsh, the Munster Council chairman said, “You can’t prepare a proper budget if it’s dependent on the championship draw. We can’t continue paying out the amounts we are, unless the income is there to support it. In relation to Kerry and Cork, there’s a massive difference between them playing in a Munster semi-final and final.”
The open draw was first introduced to Munster in 1991 and voted back in for 2009 after the seeded draw was voted for and used during the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Walsh has reiterated that the decision is for the six counties alone and he will not formally propose a return to the seeded draw. However, the stark reality is that in seasons when Cork and Kerry met in the earlier rounds, the financial consequences were sizeable.
Walsh expanded on this point saying, “Last year, we had 41,000 at the Kerry-Cork final in Killarney and 23,000 at the semi-final in Pairc Ui Chaoimh this year. Tickets are dearer for finals, so between that and the bigger crowd, there’s a big decrease in income in a year when Cork and Kerry meet early on. They met in the semi-final this year, but you could have a situation where they might meet in the first round in May, which would further impact on the attendance,”
Walsh was not directly advocating returning to a seeded draw but rather wanted the counties to reflect on what is best for the province.
“I understand that viewpoint, but we must at least consider if the present system is working in the best overall interests of Munster. There are nine counties competing in Leinster hurling, yet the champions are seeded through to the semi-finals,” said Walsh.
Cork will meet Clare in this year’s final for the first time since 1949.