Connacht GAA chief advocates reform of trial format of football championship

New format would see provincial champions advance directly to All-Ireland quarter-finals

Connacht GAA chief executive John Prenty has advocated a reform of the trial format of the football championship, which would see provincial champions advance directly to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, leaving four groups of three to contest the round-robin stages.

In his address to the annual provincial convention, which takes place next Monday, Prenty summarises the impact of the new championship structure.

“The new format for the All-Ireland combined with the split-season got its first airing in 2023. In my opinion for both club and intercounty players, the split-season has fulfilled the criteria for which it was brought in.

“Both knew when the season commenced and all of our clubs had the benefit of the knowledge that their county players would be available for the majority of their games. Despite the fact that some people think otherwise, club games are as important to the association as the intercounty game.


“The new championship format, however, has brought a couple of anomalies. The fact that 24 games were required in the round-robin series to eliminate four teams, in hindsight is probably excessive. The logic of the current format, of having three out of four teams qualify, is to minimise the possibility of dead rubbers in the final game.

“In the current format there is no advantage for a team to win their provincial championship. If continued, this eventually will dilute the importance of the provincial championship and I suggest that when we next sit down to examine the split-season and try to eliminate dead rubbers we tweak the format to:

  • “Give a bye to quarter-final to the provincial champions.
  • “Have groups of three in the round-robin. In such a scenario all games are now important with the last round a possible ‘winner-takes-all’ situation. It’s worth pursuing.”

He also sounds a warning on the potential cost of integration between the GAA and the women’s Gaelic sports organisation, currently in process, and suggests a ceiling be established for that expenditure.

Pointing out that Connacht intercounty teams are already spending nearly five times what the provincial championship raises in gate receipts, €6.7 million against €1.3 million, Prenty cautions that the costs can only rise.

“All of this, at a time, before the GAA is fully integrated with the LGFA and Camogie Associations, which will at least double the costs of preparing intercounty teams without taking into account the infrastructural requirements which will come with being one association.

“In the past I have suggested that it may be time that a fair-play financial ceiling is put in place, on how much should be spent on intercounty teams. Maybe now is the time to act before things go out of control?”

He goes on to accuse the Gaelic Players’ Association of showing disrespect to the GAA on a number of issues.

“Recent pronouncements show little respect for voluntary county and provincial officers or their work in really running the association. Maybe we need a GVA (Gaelic Volunteers Association).”

He refers to “efforts to involve GAA players in protests, at our games, to support players from our sister associations at a time before we are fully integrated”.

“The involvement of the senior hurling captains in the discussion on the sustainability of hurling in five counties. I am looking forward to their hands-on approach to increase the numbers of players playing club hurling in Leitrim.

“Obviously intercounty games are the be-all and end-all of our association and nothing else seems to matter.”

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Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times