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Five things we learned from the GAA weekend: Change is coming to the football championship structure ... again

Jarlath Burns indicates the group stages are on the way out; Mayo show what they are made of; Cork are on a learning curve

Galway and Armagh finished as a draw in the All-Ireland SFC series, but both teams had a very different reaction to the final whistle. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho
Say hello ... and wave goodbye (1)

Jeopardy arrived at the weekend but not in time to save the current format of the All-Ireland senior football championship. Change is coming.

And it appears that change will be arriving for the 2025 season. Speaking on RTÉ Radio One following the preliminary quarter-final draw on Monday morning, GAA President Jarlath Burns did not adopt a fence-sitting approach when asked about the current football championship format.

“We’re doing consultations at the moment with the provinces,” said Burns, who explained Croke Park officials had been in Munster and Leinster last week and over the coming days would be putting forward alternative options in visits to Connacht and Ulster.

“One of the themes coming through really is the lack of jeopardy, I share this view,” he added.

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“I just think that one of the major themes that is emerging from this is that there should be a lot more jeopardy, there should be more winning, more losing, more disappointments, more triumphs. I think that’s what next year’s championship will look more like.

“I would imagine next year there is going to be change.”

Farewell to another championship format, so. Your time was brief. — Gordon Manning

Say hello ... and wave goodbye (2)

For the second year, the finale to the GAA’s All-Ireland football group stages played concertos on the nerve strings. By now – and confirmed by association president Jarlath Burns’s comments on Monday morning – most people have fallen out of love with the concept of the groups and there will be change.

The immense challenge of getting knocked out of the championship has created fixtures with little riding on them, triggering both rampant indifference among the viewing public and a yearning among the undead counties for someone to put a stake through their heart.

But the now reviled format has created excitement on the last day and can claim an internal competitiveness that has seen just one county in two seasons – Kerry this year – win all three group matches.

There was no mistaking the contrasting emotions in Sligo and Hyde Park, as two dying-seconds points created draws but with very definite outcomes. Armagh celebrated uninhibitedly after their last point gave them first place in the group whereas there was no mistaking Mayo’s disappointment to be pulled back from the brink of a significant win over Dublin.

As is often the case with GAA matters, the attempt to do one thing – in this case combat dead rubbers – creates a corresponding problem that becomes insupportable for the public. The cure becomes more of a hardship than the ailment.

Whatever fix is developed for next season, give it two years before its inevitable downside becomes all that matters. — Seán Moran

Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton appeals a late decision to give a 45 to Mayo. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Mayo have a lot going for them - they just have to believe it

The Mayo camp were, on the whole, a little floored by the outcome on Sunday. We forget at times that a lot of them are still very young and inexperienced. Donnacha McHugh and David McBrien were two of their best performers against Dublin, fire-blanketing no lesser lights than Brien Fenton and Con O’Callaghan respectively. Both of them are in just their second season. Sam Callinan is still only 20. They haven’t had many days like this.

Milling around outside the dressing rooms afterwards, you could see that Kevin McStay and his management have a job of work ahead to lift their panel for next weekend against Derry. But once the bodies recover and the minds clear, they will reflect on a championship that is actually going far better than many of their more pessimistic supporters give them credit for.

They’ve had one defeat in six games in this championship. That came against Galway, in a game where they led in injury-time. Coughing up another lead yesterday obviously isn’t great but they probably shouldn’t let Cormac Costello’s equaliser obscure the fact that they were every bit the match for the All-Ireland champions.

There’s plenty left in the season for Mayo yet. Believing it will be half the battle. — Malachy Clerkin

Cork's Killian O’Hanlon and Ian Maguire with Cathal McShane of Tyrone. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Cork are still leagues apart

Nobody wonders about the league in June but after Tyrone beat Cork by four points on Saturday John Cleary raised it in passing as a critical gap in their education.

“In fairness to Tyrone they punished us big time when we had a man off with the black card – they managed the game better during that period than we did. We weren’t outclassed, we just needed to be a bit more efficient. I suppose that is the beauty of playing in Division One, year in year out, and playing against the top teams, you get your times of dominance and you have got to be clinical.”

It was an important point. Cork have consistently been among the top 12 teams in the championship – and managed to beat two Division One teams in last year’s championship – but it 10 years since they topped Division One in the league after the regulation fixtures. Two years later they were relegated.

Four teams finished on six points that season, but Cork had the poorest points difference, which might have felt unlucky at the time. The following year, however, they finished mid-table in Division Two, and that has become their place of residence.

In the All-Ireland quarter-final last year Cork didn’t allow Derry to run away from them, but Cork never looked like winning and in the second half the Ulster champions dictated everything that mattered. On Saturday it was a similar scenario. When the game was a little loose in the first half Cork looked comfortable and threatening, but when the outcome was in the melting pot Tyrone’s game management was superior. They Cork had at arm’s length.

Next week Cork will meet Louth, a team from their peer group, which is middle of Division Two. Until they get out of there nothing of significance will change. — Denis Walsh

Cathal Hickey of Meath scores a goal against Monaghan - but when did he score it? Photograph: James Lawlor/Inpho
It’s all a question of time

A plea to The Sunday Game production team – can you please start time-stamping your highlights?

It doesn’t seem like an outlandish request. For instance Match of the Day always include a graphic stating “14th minute” or whatever when showing a move/save/goal in their packages. Why not RTÉ?

It seems bizarre to see a goal being scored and not know whether it was three minutes into the second half, or three minutes from the end of the game. Context is everything.

Take the weekend – Monaghan v Meath was on GAAGo, and had a timestamp on the game throughout. But on the highlights that evening on the The Sunday Game, there was no timestamp or even scoreline shown. Scores were arriving in an information vacuum. Even if the GAAGo graphics had been left intact, we would at least know the effect of a particular booming score – rather than trying to guess by how excited the commentator sounded.

It feels in recent years like all the innovative thinking in GAA coverage has been coming from TG4 – their kickout cam has been a clear winner – with RTÉ sometimes giving the impression of being reluctant to change. But surely this is an easy win? Time please. — Patrick Nugent