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18th Jun 2019

“Cork have won the Munster title and Dublin still haven’t played”

Conan Doherty

The provincial structure raises its ugly head again.

There’s romance in conquering your province and there’s serious merit to it too but by way of fitting into an All-Ireland competition, it’s flawed and it’s unfair.

In men’s football, having the provincial tournament link to the wider national tournament is the number one biggest problem with the game. It’s the reason the fixtures are so spread out, it’s the reason sone teams randomly (or by accident of Geography) have tougher games than others and it’s the reason why a side like Cork can beat Limerick and suddenly now just have one more game to make it to the Super 8s.

Any finals tournament, like the All-Ireland, that requires one team to win two games to get to the last eight and another to win four to get to the same stage is just bonkers. And it’s not a problem that’s isolated to the men’s game.

In ladies football, the imbalance is prevalent too and it can be more glaring because of the divide of senior, intermediate and junior teams. In both Connacht and Leinster, only two sides compete for the senior provincial championship and they’re going in undercooked into the All-Ireland group stages.

On PlayXPlay, former Donegal star Amber Barrett spoke about how the system helps her county but isn’t fair on a team like Dublin.

Listen here from 51:17:

After the conclusion of the provinces, all 12 teams in the All-Ireland senior ladies championship enter into four groups of three divided by a provincial winner, a runner-up and another.

Some teams will be going in primed though with three tough games under their belts whilst others will have played once.

Take Donegal as an example in Ulster. They came through a Tyrone test with four points to spare and then were dragged into extra time with Cavan. Now they play Armagh in the decider and this is all before the All-Ireland group stages whilst Dublin are yet to play anyone (they’ll play Westmeath in a shootout for the title). It’s the same in Connacht with Mayo and Galway.

Because of the provincial structure.

On PlayXPlay, Amber Barrett and Dublin footballer Niamh McEvoy spoke about that situation from both counties.

“Think about when the league finished. When you’re in the middle of the league, at the back of your mind, you’re like, ‘championship, championship, championship’,” Barrett explained.

“But when you come to the end of the league you have eight weeks to go [until championship]. It’s nearly demotivating for yourself. And think about it: Donegal will have played three games, their third game will be the Ulster final. Your first game will be the Leinster final.”

Dublin have won the All-Ireland the last two years but McEvoy knows they would benefit from more games.

“Lots of the teams have played championship games already. We haven’t played a championship game yet,” the Dublin forward said.

“There’s only one other senior team in Leinster and we’re not playing until the end of the month.

“The Munster final was on Sunday. Cork had a really impressive performance and beat Waterford – Waterford were really good in the first half.

“For them to have already won Munster and us to not even have played a game yet is probably a bit of an issue.

“I do really like the structure of the ladies championship and I think that intermediate and junior is necessary but I would love to see more Leinster teams pushing through. I’d be very envious about what’s happening up in Ulster.

“Westmeath are a formidable side. They’re in division one in the league this year and putting it up to loads of teams and got a good few wins. I still respect the Leinster championship in the sense that it will be a really competitive game but, still, it’s only one.”

Subscribe here or watch that full conversation below:

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