GAA Football

Forget all the problems and bring the GAA into real bonus territory

Armagh and Longford battled right to the end but the latter left empty-handed due to the 'winner takes all' system. Pic Philip Walsh

THE solutions to most of the GAA's major problems are fairly simple.

Games getting called off due to water-logged or frozen pitches?

Don't play matches in the winter. Wait until at least spring – and not the Irish spring, but the one that only begins in March.

Hurling in particular needs to be played on dry, hard pitches. Perhaps what's needed is the reverse of the 'oyster rule', whereby top level hurling is only played in months WITHOUT an 'R' in them.

Maybe that's a little restrictive but it would certainly free up plenty of time in the calendar for club hurling.

Which brings me on to: clubs not getting access to their players, or not enough access anyway.

Solution? The clue is in that description: 'their players'. Clubs do most of the training and development of players, certainly in the important early days when basic skills are learned and honed.

So what's needed is a reversal of the prevailing attitude. Instead of counties having first call on players, they should have to politely seek permission from their clubs.

Perhaps there could even be payments from county boards for the use of players' services.

That would alleviate another problem, the debts clubs get themselves into having to pay dues and insurance, etc to county boards. Let's pretend payments to managers and coaches aren't part of any outgoings.

Next problem? Too many matches on satellite stations?

When the next TV deals come around, only allow matches on the national broadcasters – you know who and what I mean – but ensure that they pay a much – MUCH - higher rate for the privilege of broadcasting games that will attract large viewerships.

Of course, fitting all those various 'solutions' into a coherent whole is the tricky bit.

'Solving' the GAA is akin to completing one of those 5x5x5 Rubik's Cubes. While blind-folded. Without taking stickers off some squares and shifting them around.

You may get one or even two or three sides right, but when you look at another part it's turned into a complete mess.

So let's accept that all those issues aren't going to be sorted out for another while.

On the day that's in it, though, the romantic in me wants to give everyone the chance to be at least a little bit happy at the end of a match, or less unhappy anyway.

Everyone loves to be in the proverbial 'bonus territory' when they win matches and progress further in a competition than they might have expected.

Let's really bring bonuses into the GAA.

Armagh-Longford in the Allianz Football League Division Three on Sunday was merely the latest match – and result – that left me thinking: 'That's just not right'.

Not that Armagh won, having not played particularly well. That happens.

Not that Longford lost, having played pretty well; that happens too.

No, what wasn't right was Longford heading home completely empty-handed, having contributed so much to the game, indeed having led almost throughout.

Longford, who lost by a point, received the same reward as a team that had been absolutely thrashed. Absolutely nothing.

Sure, scoring difference can come into deciding finishing positions in a league table – but points on the board are much more meaningful.

You could calculate some sort of losers' reward based on the percentage of game-time that a team was in front, so that Longford might have ended up with 0.8 of a point. Another defeated team who weren't so dominant might only get 0.3 of a point, for example.

Slightly simpler would be to adopt rugby's bonus point system.

Narrow losers would still get something for all their efforts.

Big winners would get even more.

Of course, there'd have to be debate about what constituted a 'narrow loss'; three points or less, shall we say?

As for a 'big win', it would need to be by at least seven points, in my estimation.

Unlike rugby, the winners' bonus point shouldn't relate to the equivalent of a certain number of tries scored, as teams might just let each other lash in four goals and then get on with the match.

Overall, though, the genuine competitive element could be increased.

If a team knew that coming close even in defeat would benefit them then they might try that little bit harder in the closing stages and ensure an exciting finale to a game that in the past would have drifted towards a tame conclusion.

Equally, a team that's leading by, say, four points might not just 'shut up shop' and protects its advantage but aim to build on it in order to earn a bonus point.

We might have to scale up the points awarded to winners, to three or four, but imagine the fun there'd be in working out potential permutations as leagues neared their conclusions. 'Bring back scoring average' would be the plaintive cry.

This bonus point system might even sort out the problem we haven't even experienced yet, although one that many among us have predicted - all those imminent 'dead rubbers' in the senior football championship's 'Super Eight' stage and the round robins in the Leinster and Munster hurling championships.

Go even further and link every county's results to its central funding allocation and then we'd have every team battling for every second of every match.

Of course, such financial rewards would probably only exacerbate another problem – the dominance of football by Dublin ….

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