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Cleary: Provincial structure not working

April 19th, 2024 2:00 PM

By Sean Holland

Cork manager John Cleary. Cork were defeated by Kerry in MSFC semi final.

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CORK manager John Cleary believes the provincial championships may need restructuring to provide fairness and clarity, with teams left in limbo by the current format. The frustration of not knowing whether teams will compete in the Sam Maguire or Tailteann Cup is one of the main gripes. ‘I'm not so sure about keeping it the way it is. I think that they may need to change them around, really, because I don't think it's satisfactory. Even going in on Saturday, we're not 100% sure whether we'll be in the Sam Maguire or not. I think that's very hard on counties and teams. There's teams even below us in the league that are in the provincial championships, and they don't know what competition they will be playing in the summer whether it is the Sam Maguire or Tailteann Cup,’ Cleary explained.

While the Rebels will look ahead to Saturday’s Munster football semi-final clash with Kerry, knowing a win will put them into a provincial final and confirm Sam Maguire status, there’s still that level of uncertainty were they to lose. Six of the bottom 16 counties, who are currently set to play in the Tailteann Cup still have an opportunity to make provincial finals and hence the Sam Maguire series.

While some have called for the provincial competitions to be removed entirely, many like Cleary would prefer to see them played prior to the league but acknowledges that would reduce their importance. ‘I think it would be a level playing field if everyone was starting the league and you knew what your league position was, and what competition you’d be playing in. But I'm not 100% sure what the solution is. I don't think provincial councils would be too happy in playing their showpiece competition in February or early in the season,’ said the Cork boss.

GAA president Jarlath Burns spoke midweek about the potential to push All-Ireland finals back to September, hence giving the intercounty teams more schedule breathing room, but that is a double-edged sword, as Cleary explains. ‘I was on the other side of it there a couple of years ago with the club and the club game has to get a fair crack as well. There were situations where the county team finished, the next thing the club was on the fo lowing Sunday and they never had any time to prepare either. It's tough. ‘I don't know what the actual exact solution is, because every solution that's come up with it, there seems to be another counter argument that goes against it.'

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