Provided the GAA schedule goes according to plan, the controversial introduction of a tier 2 competition is destined to intrigue. Aimed to accommodate the so-called weaker counties, it’s difficult to ignore the condescending sentiment. A famous quote from American writer Ernest Hemingway appropriately questions the GAA’s motive, “there is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self”. Creating a divide in an amateur sport may be a dangerous step towards professionalism.
Most would argue an added incentive was needed, however the tier 2 competition establishes a hierarchy which patronizes those involved and will ultimately compromise their motivation long term. The season is long enough for eliminated teams without having to compete for a glorified participation award. How many eight-year-old kids dream of climbing the Hogan stand steps to collect a tier-two trophy for their county?
The idea of creating a ‘realistic opportunity’ similar to the successful Joe McDonagh Cup has been used as the logic to introduce the tier 2 competition which has been named the Tailteann Cup. Unlike the Joe McDonagh Cup however, which is played prior to provincial elimination, the Tailteann Cup is anticlimactic in structure as any hopes of mounting a provincial challenge are already gone.
One of the key criticisms of the Joe McDonagh Cup is the lack of coverage and recognition received. Coverage is a crucial indicator to gauge genuine interest in a competition. Generally in sport, demand drives coverage. This is why feminazis lobbying for equal pay in women’s professional soccer falls on deaf ears, the public interest just isn’t there. So looking past the initial artificial coverage of the 2020 Tailteann Cup, its ambitious to envisage fans being engrossed at the prospect of watching division 3 and 4 teams wind down their season in a secondary competition.
If the primary goal is to improve the standard of the weaker counties, consider the ratio distribution of improvement. Perhaps both of the finalists get a morale boost for the following season, but the other 12 countries involved will be further discouraged as they build unfavorable momentum when they could instead be focusing on their club championship. Also consider the long term effects on teams not involved, a tiered championship reinforces the superiority complex which filters down to future tradition which will only increase the divide as a consequence.
Unless the second tier tournament is better integrated in to the football championship, it’s difficult to see a positive impact developing long term. The future implication of this change remains to be seen, but how many poorly calculated structure changes can we afford before entering the point of no return on the path to professional GAA?
By Ciaran Cunningham, 07/04/2020