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Former GAA chief Kelly backs change to All Ireland provincial system

By Micheal McGeary

Former GAA president Sean Kelly is proposing that the provincial and All Ireland Football Championships be run as separate competitions.

One more time: Tyrone boss Mickey Harte has called for a second bite of the All Ireland cherry for provincial champions

His suggestion follows the failure of all eight provincial finalists to make the All-Ireland semi-finals for the first time since the qualifiers were introduced in 2001.

“If we want fairness and a system that works, and if we want to help our clubs, there is one obvious solution,” he said.

“Run the provincial championships as they are run at present, but run the All-Ireland series as a separate competition on an open draw basis concurrently.

“Director General Paraic Duffy rightly said it is a separate competition already — separate but not apart from the provincial series.

“It’s time to make the Sam Maguire Cup both separate and apart, but run concurrently with the provincial campaign.”

If Kelly’s proposal was adopted it would see the provincial championships being run off as normal, but they would no longer be linked to the All Ireland series.

This he maintains would grant provincial councils greater flexibility regarding dates.

He then advocates the All Ireland Football Championship run off on an open draw basis.

“New York or London could be given the option of playing a preliminary round or just opting for a shot at the provincials,” he said.

The demise of the four provincial winners in the All Ireland quarter finals has prompted calls for change from a variety of quarters within the sport.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has been particularly vocal, suggesting the provincial winners get a second chance.

And in fairness it’s something he has been advocating for some time.

It’s certainly not a knee jerk reaction to the events of the last Saturday in July when both Kerry and Tyrone saw their Championship aspirations go up in smoke.

You can now rest assured that a number of motions will go before next year’s Annual Congress offered differing views on the way ahead.

In a sense it’s now open season for those calling for change. Martin McHugh, an All Ireland winner with Donegal, has always advocated the introduction of a Champions League structure thereby giving counties a minimum number of games.

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