GAA Football has been trying to implement two tiers into their system for a few years now but there has been a lot of pushback from both clubs and players. Resistance to change seems to be a common issue that Gaelic football and the GAA have. Clubs and players always want to keep things the way that they are and they; convincing them can be an extremely difficult task. The GAA needs to look at the way they are approaching the second tier system and find a way that works for all Gaelic footballers.
“If you are going to sell it, you are going to have to sell it in a manner that makes it attractive to players. If you’re a lad playing for Longford for 10 years, I think you are entitled to a day in Croke Park in September, rather than give it to a 15- or 16-year-olds (current minor) who may drift away from the game in a year or two and never really value that experience. So my hope would be that it would be a curtain-raiser to the senior final in September.”
There has been a significant change in the thinking of this option. Back in 2016, the division four footballers were asked if they were open to a second tier and they all voted no unanimously. But, in 2018 they were asked again and almost 60 percent of footballers surveyed said that they supported the change.
If there was significant support for the second tier of GAA football there would have to be a lot of changes in the organization and the way that the Sam Maguire Cup is run because there would be two competitions running at the same time. Certain division four and division three footballers and clubs are not certain that the survey included any division four or three footballers. This would explain the stark contrast in the two different surveys so it looks like the GAA has a long way to go in getting everyone on board for the second tier of Gaelic football.
GAA football would make a good choice if they decided to switch to a two-tier system so that the clubs and counties in the lower tier would be able to compete. As of now, the division four teams are destroyed by the division one teams early on in the competition and then they are out and have nothing to play for. This way the lower division teams would still get to compete for a title and have more matches which would bring in more revenue for both the clubs and the GAA.
Creating a two-tier system would also be beneficial for the teams in division 1 because of the fact that they have to consistently play their best players in all of their matches. The two-tier system takes a lot of the burden off of all the divisions and means there are fewer qualifying matches which helps players rest.
“It was felt the winners of the All-Ireland were coming out of 1B and 1A seemed to be extremely competitive and there was a feeling there that it wasn’t giving managers an opportunity to actually play players in a developmental manner because results were key, particularly in 1A, even in 1B because they were all trying to get out of it,” explained Horan.
The move to change to a two-tier system would most likely come in 2020 because the 2019 season is too close and it would be a logistical nightmare to change the system at this point in time. This move would make Gaelic football more competitive and would offer a higher quality game and league overall.