GAA president looking to make change to All-Ireland club championships for fairer landscape

GAA president looking to make change to All-Ireland club championships for fairer landscape

The President of the GAA, Larry McCarthy, has expressed the need for a possible reformation of the existing structure of club championships to ensure fairness for all counties in Ireland.

Over the past few months, criticism has been directed at Kerry's club championship structure for several reasons. The Kerry County Championship, often described as cutthroat, features eight senior clubs competing alongside eight divisional teams made up of players from clubs in the Intermediate, Premier Junior, and Junior Championships.

For instance, Kerins O'Rahilly's, the reigning Munster and Kerry champions, have criticised the county championship structure, deeming it unfit for purpose since their relegation to intermediate level.

This structure results in the Kerry intermediate champions, considered the ninth-best team in Kerry, facing lower-ranked sides from other counties in the Munster and All-Ireland series, creating an imbalance. In a recent incident, the ninth-best club in Kerry, Milltown-Castlemaine, played against the 25th-best in Cork, Cil Na Martra, with Cork emerging victorious.

Due to the current championship structure in Kerry, only eight clubs currently play at the senior level, leading to their dominance at the All-Ireland intermediate and junior levels over the years.

Over the two decades since the initiation of the Intermediate All-Ireland, Kerry has clinched seven titles out of 20, showcasing a success rate exceeding one in every three championships. The triumphant clubs encompass Ardfert (2–2007, '15), St. Michael’s Foilmore ('09), Milltown-Castlemaine ('12), St. Mary’s ('16), Kilcummin ('19), and Rathmore ('23).

The GAA president wants to change to All-Ireland club championships to make it fair for all counties. (Photo By Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

In the realm of junior-level competitions, Kerry's dominance is notably impressive, with 11 distinct clubs achieving All-Ireland success within 22 years, attaining a commendable 50 percent success rate. Among the victorious Kerry clubs are Finuge ('05), Ardfert ('06), Skellig Rangers ('09), Castlegregory ('10), St. Mary’s ('11), Brosna ('15), Templenoe ('16), Glenbeigh-Glencar ('17), Beaufort ('19), Na Gaeil ('20), and Fossa ('23).

Kerry has consistently produced an Intermediate or Junior All-Ireland champion for 14 of the 20 years since the inception of both competitions.

Kerry's distinctive structure sets it apart from most counties, incorporating local divisional championships and divisional sides composed of junior and intermediate players participating in the County Championship. Many believe that Kerry's remarkable record of 38 All-Ireland titles at the inter-county level is because of this

The eight divisional sides are East Kerry, Mid Kerry, South Kerry, St. Brendan’s, Shannon Rangers, Feale Rangers, St. Kieran’s, and West Kerry.

GAA President Larry McCarthy has suggested that it may be time for a change to "level the playing field."

McCarthy stated, “Do the GAA now need to put a minimum limit on senior clubs for the top counties and level the playing field somewhat? If you were to look at it purely in a sporting sense, yeah, we should. We should look into it. And maybe the CCCC should look and say, "Right, well, in each county, perhaps there should be x" number of clubs at each level, "he said this week. 

"Particularly at the senior level because that has the knock-on effect obviously in terms of the intermediate and junior levels. But then you have to take into account the local nuances in each county. In terms of the fairness of the competition, the club championships are arguably the best competitions that we have across the spectrum; it's probably something we should look at.”