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We are in for a GAA Championship overhaul

By Ger Houlahan

The GAA landscape has certainly changed after the weekend events. The seismic shift sees protagonists, other than the big three still competitive.

The eventual home of the Sam Maguire has never been more uncertain. All remaining four teams will see themselves as eventual winners now that Tyrone, Kerry and Meath are no longer in the running.

It is interesting to note that all provincial champions have now left the scene and this may perhaps be important as future championships come around.

This could well be the weekend that sounds the death knell for the provincial championships.

In respect of winning the All Ireland, there is no longer any benefit in winning your respective provincial title, as you are not entitled to a second chance and the emotion of winning such an accolade obviously affects teams as they move forward.

A sounder option may be through the back door where games get progressively more difficult as fitness, confidence and team cohesion improves. It is however fraught with the prospect of getting a bad draw!

Saturday and Sunday’s events may well lead to more lobbying for the open draw or some other alternative Championship system.

The weekend’s matches were indeed eventful with the scalps of the reigning champions taken by their bogey team Down. But in truth, Kerry must hate to see Ulster teams coming and I still maintain that Cork won them an All Ireland last year by getting rid of Tyrone at the semi-final stage!

Down, have come a long way since their second half horror show in Casement Park. Their forwards are now beginning to gel and in Martin Clarke they have a player who will excel in the wide open spaces of Croker.

Their bench is responding superbly and notably getting vital scores to kill games off. However, I have always been critical of their defence and they have been immense lately and perhaps the surprise inclusion of Dan Gordon at full back has been the missing ingredient.

Who would have believed that Down would have lasted longer in the championship than Tyrone?

Tyrone who were superb in the Ulster final faltered on Saturday at the hand of the Dubs who are growing in confidence all the time but in truth Tyrone had every chance and uncharacteristically, took the wrong options in attack particularly when in the ascendancy with 15 minutes to go.

Sean Cavanagh and Stephen O’Neill were the key offenders but in many instances Dublin had players in their face forcing them to kick of the weaker foot and under immense pressure.

Tyrone will be gutted as they will know that this will be another opportunity missed especially with Kerry out and no other team in really convincing form.

This weekend proved beyond doubt that the team is greater than any individual. The teams still standing are workman-like, committed and honest. Hence, even at this stage it is still totally baffling as to who will win Sam but rest assured that Ulster still have a serious chance with Down who have history and tradition as well as undoubted talent on their side.

Belfast Telegraph


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