Provincial championships are the stumbling block to progress: Clare boss Colm Collins
CLARE senior football manager Colm Collins says he would ditch the provincial championships at "90 miles an hour" as he regards them as the biggest stumbling block to finding a proper championship structure that would meet the needs of all counties.
Collins, whose side are just one more win away from the Super 8s if they can overcome Meath this weekend, is in favour of a tiered Championship system - but not one that effectively bars the lower ranked teams from competing in the Sam Maguire.
The tier two Championship format envisaged by the GAA could still face tweaks before being debated at Special Congress in October - but the thrust of it is that Division Three and Four teams would have to reach a provincial final in order to earn the right to play in the All-Ireland series.
“I think there are a lot of vested interests in keeping the provincials," said Collins, who is in his sixth year as Clare manager.
"I would ditch the provincial competitions at 90 miles an hour. There was a fantastic win for Roscommon [in this year's Connacht Championship] and it was a great occasion, but there was no pitch invasion in Pairc Ui Chaoimh [Munster final] or in Croke Park [Leinster final], or nobody was interested in getting onto the pitch."
By removing the provincial Championships, Collins feels, would pave the way for a Champions League group stages format that would re-invigorate the entire Championship.
Collins is also critical of the current round robin series [Super 8s] and the timing of it.
"When you get to the quarter-finals and semi-finals it should be a straight knock-out. Having group stages at the end of a competition is something I would not be for. It’s a bit of a cop-out in my book. I mean, the Super 8s is the only competition in the world where the actual group stages are at the end of the competition. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
"The problem is people don't look past their own little corner. The provincial councils are excellent administration units but I think it's high time [for change].
"You take Kerry's dominance at underage level. How do you get it into the heads of young fellas that they can beat these fellas? If we were in an All-Ireland minor championship where we drew any team in the country in the first round, and we won three or four rounds, suddenly you start to get belief, whereas this antiquated system is preserving the status quo. By all means give the provincial councils their cut of the loot and keep them all very happy - but let's not stop progress."
In his press briefing earlier this week, GAA President John Horan intimated that one possible change to the proposed tier two senior football championship could be allowing the promoted Division Three teams to compete in the All-Ireland series while the relegated Division Two teams would be condemned to the lower tier should they also fail to make any headway in their respective provincial Championships that year.
“I would be very much for a second tier competition," Collins added, "but it’s very much which way that it is done. I don’t think they should condemn teams that are in Division Three and Four to play the second tier competition. I think that everybody should get an opportunity to play for the main competition.
"I’ve always felt the way they run the Champions League is the way our competition should be run: eight groups of four and the top two go through...
“It’s vital that the GAA don’t get this wrong. This has happened before where they’ve introduced a secondary competition and it hasn’t worked.
"Number one: every team in the country has to get to play for the main competition; then, the secondary competition gets the respect it deserves and is played on All-Ireland final day; that you get your 15 Allstars out of it; that they get to travel with the main Allstars...
"You look at some of the players over last weekend – the likes of Ciaran Martyn from Westmeath has never got an Allstar and there are a lot worse players than him that got one, I can tell you. There are these players in every county. I think if they do it right it would be brilliant. But there is a lot of muddying the waters here, with talk of football having three or four tiers. There is no need for that. The standard in football is not bad across the board so I see no need for more than two tiers. And I think it would be a success."
Horan has already stipulated the GAA would be concentrating on a two-tier model.
Alongside Tipperary, Clare have been one of the success stories in football over the last few seasons.
In Collins's first year in charge, the Banner County got out of Division Four in 2014 and are looking forward to their fourth consecutive season in Division Two in 2020.
The Clare native added: "Obviously we’ve had our tough times in Clare – we’re playing good football at the minute, and that’s good – but I think it would be an absolutely brilliant thing if every team in the country had the chance of winning a national competition.
“I know there are a lot of good things at the moment [in the current format] but Munster has been dominated by one team, Leinster is obviously being dominated by one team… The world’s not going to end if we change things up and try something new. And if it doesn’t work, and if it’s not improving things and people aren’t coming to matches, then change it back.
“We’re very conservative and we’re slow to change.”