Saturday, March 29, 2008

GAA: A level playing field

Although not yet signed, sealed, and delivered the "eligible expenses" scheme will involve a decent sum of money for players, especially for those that are students. With "performance" criteria built in to the scheme players will be paid depending on how far their county gets in the All-Ireland.

Both these elements pose an important question: at the start of each season, shouldn't each inter-county team be faced with the same number of games to reach the latter stages of the championship? The grants,  sorry, "eligible expenses" scheme may not create the pressure for change in this area yet, but if the GPA manages to get a percentage of TV money, then the pressure will build.

Currently, there is no level playing field in the All-Ireland. The historical geography of our provincial make-up dosen't allow it. Teams are faced with the same number of fixtures only after winning the provincial championships. No one can argue that Kerry or Cork face the same difficulty in winning their provincial championship as Armagh or Tyrone. Look at the Irish Independent's analysis of the situation in Ulster today, where there are six of the top 13 teams in the All-Ireland betting list. 

And even when the teams come through the provincial championships they do not enjoy equal status. The Ulster teams have to peak for round one of the championship and try to maintain their fitness throughout the season. Kerry have to peak to play Cork. 

How long can this situation last?

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