GAA Football

Tyrone secretary fears potential 'play to lose' approach in Super Eights

Tyrone cruised past Armagh in this year's All-Ireland quarter-finals but Red Hand secretary Dominic McCaughey fears more 'dead rubbers' next year. Pic Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

THE new 'Super Eight' format for the All-Ireland SFC could lead to situations where teams may play to lose, a leading administrator has claimed.

Tyrone county secretary Dominic McCaughey says he fears that in the latter stages of the round robin series, there is a danger that some counties could play for a 'desired outcome' in order to secure a preferred All-Ireland semi-final opponent.

McCaughey also calls for the introduction of at least two tiers in the inter-county football championship in order to create a more level playing field and provide meaningful fixtures for weaker counties.

In his report to next week's Tyrone county convention, McCaughey says: "Part of the reasoning for this so-called 'super eight' stage is to ensure that more high-quality games of football at the height of the season will take place.

"Unfortunately this cannot be ensured – there may be some high-quality games, but there is a greater chance that there will be nothing at stake in the final games within each group, and there is a possibility that some teams may decide to play for a desired outcome, which would potentially lead to a preferred semi-final fixture.

"Although all of these changes are being introduced for an experimentation period of three years it will be vitally important that the situation is monitored thoroughly at the end of each year, so that any necessary amendments can be introduced in advance of the following season."

McCaughey suggests that the introduction of tiered championships at inter-county level would create a more level playing field and provide more meaningful fixtures for those counties which don't tend to reach the latter stages of the All-Ireland SFC.

"The only way in which there can be an increase in the number of high-quality inter-county football championship games is by introducing grading, as is done for clubs in every county, and as is done in inter-county adult hurling," he argues.

"The Association should introduce at least two grades of football championship in which county teams would be competing against those of similar standards; this system works perfectly in the four divisions of the national leagues where well-matched teams achieve appropriate results. In the hurling championship each county is accommodated at a level where it can aspire to success, whether it be attempting to win the Lory Meagher Cup or the Liam McCarthy Cup.

"If this system is successful in hurling why can it not be contemplated for football; it could readily be established and could co-exist with a Provincial championship."

The Tyrone secretary also has concerns over possible impacts on the club fixtures programme of extra games in the inter-county Minor Championship and the scheduling of the U21 Championship.

"With the introduction of a 'back door' at minor football championship level in Ulster and the shifting of the U20 football championship into the summer months there could well be difficulties in drafting a proper club fixtures' programme.

"The change in youth competition age levels to U17 and U20 will create some difficulties with fixture planning, initially, and possibly more longer-term. It may take a few years to establish the optimum time of year to play these competitions and whether they should be linked to other adult competitions."

The 'Super Eight' groupings in year one (2018) will be as follows:

• Group 1 – Munster provincial winner, Connacht provincial winner, Ulster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4 of the qualifiers, Leinster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4.

• Group 2 – Ulster provincial winner, Leinster provincial winner, Munster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4 for the qualifiers, Connacht runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4.

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