“WE all eat the same spuds” a quote used this week by Leitrim defender Gary Reynolds when summing up his frustration at how the rest of his summer will pan out.
Gary made the point that they do exactly the same amount of training and stick to the same diets as every other county, but he feels they do not get to experience as many Championship days as the big guns. In his eyes this just isn’t fair.
I can see where a guy like Gary is coming from. He trains all year round to get geared up for one big game, which results in a hammering, and then waits maybe six weeks for his next game which could quite possibly end in the same way. These players on theses teams must surly question why on earth they put themselves through it all.
Maybe it has been the same for quite some time now and perhaps it was due to my involvement in games that I didn’t see it like that, but I now feel that there are five teams with a realistic chance of success this year, either provincially or nationally, and the rest might as well be playing bingo.
The gap has widened so much now that games are so easily predicted that the fun and excitement of Championship Sunday is fading.
Take last weekend’s game between Tyrone and Derry. In the build up to the game we were coming up with all sorts of scenarios of how Derry might be able to make a game of it but deep down we all knew that they were like lambs heading into the slaughter.
People said Tyrone were impressive but, for me, it was more of a case of Derry being so poor. Yes Tyrone broke at pace but sure that’s not hard to do when your opposition let you run the length of the field without laying a hand on you.
My thoughts this week have not been about how far Tyrone will go this year or who will win between Cavan and Armagh, but rather how those unfortunate souls on the Derry and Leitrim panels must feel this week.
What motivates them to continue? No matter how much you thrash things out in team meetings, those players know deep down that they are going absolutely nowhere so what drives them from here? Pride will take you so far but deep in the back of their minds they must be questions their involvement. At some point they must fell like they are flogging a dead horse, it’s only natural to feel like that.
This alone is not resigned to Leitrim or Derry as over the next few weeks they will be joined by the other 27 teams who have no hope of achieving success this year.
Has the time for change arrived? Yes. Will the powers that be look at this and rectify it? Probably not as they don’t seem to have any idea of how to improve things.
For me it’s time for a complete overhaul of the Championship. The only way to go is to head down the road of a Champions League style format, this way teams will get more meaningful games against better opposition leading to all teams improving over time.
The critics out there will say that sure teams like Leitrim and Derry will suffer more demoralising defeats but for me if teams were guaranteed at least three Championship games each year in the group stage with games coming in quick succession then this provides the perfect environment to blood young players and improve your squad year on year.
To those whinging about wanting to keep the provincial championships, I would ask them to watch closely over the next few weeks and you might just change your mind. Only two teams have a chance of winning Munster, two teams in Connacht, possibly three in Ulster and one in Leinster so realistically what is the point?
We are wasting time during May, June and July playing these meaningless games and at the same time destroying the souls of players from the weaker counties who are on the end of these hammerings, which are becoming all too common.