What is Cavan doing in the draw for the Tailteann Cup, the new Tier 2 football championship that starts in a few weeks?
Shouldn’t they be in the All Ireland qualifiers and getting ready to test themselves further against top counties after doing so well against Donegal last Sunday?
If the logic is applied, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the case of the Tailteann Cup, where eligibility is based on a crude and entirely unscientific basis.
That’s unfortunate because the new competition, which aims to give lower-ranked districts an opportunity to win a title at their own level, has significant advantages.
The difficulty arises in deciding what constitutes “their own level”. For Tailteann Cup purposes, the GAA defined it as all Divisions 3 and 4 teams (plus New York), except if any district from those groups reached a provincial finals, in which case they would be eligible for qualification.
It’s neat from an administrative point of view, but seriously flawed in other aspects. Why decide that 16 districts weren’t good enough to qualify unless they made it to a provincial final? Why not 12, 14 or 18?
What research was done on district totals before the dividing line was drawn between the Tailteann Cup and the qualifiers?
It seems a case of simple housekeeping to settle on a top and bottom 16 list based solely on how counties fared at the bottom of this year’s league. Achievements in recent championships – or leagues – do not count.
Let’s return to Cavan. In the last five championships (including this one) they have won an Ulster title and reached another final. Of their four losses in the most contested province, three were to Donegal, one to Tyrone, who went on to win the All-Ireland.
Cavan was in Division 1 in 2019 before dropping down to Division 4, from where they resurfaced this year. Their tumble needs to be put into context, as last year’s dip from Division 3 to 4 came in a truncated campaign in which counties only had four games. It wasn’t a real test in the normal sense.
Cavan beat Monaghan (twice), Down, Donegal and Armagh at Ulster in 2019-2020 but is now considered not good enough to take part in the qualifiers, while Louth and Limerick, both of whom did not finish top 16 in the same period Opponents defeated, these are.
That’s because Louth and Limerick were promoted to Division 2 this year, while Cavan is still in the league’s bottom 16. In fact, promotion from Division 3 for championship purposes is considered more of an achievement than beating the Division 1 opponent over a couple of seasons.
It makes no sense and is solely due to the blunt method of separating counties for Tailteann Cup and qualifying purposes.
If league standings were to be the mechanism then tables should have been used over a longer period of time. In this scenario, Cavan would have made the qualifier cut as their average finishing place over the past five seasons was 14th.
Neither did Down (15th), Louth (23rd) and Limerick (24th).
Aside from the failure to use previous championships and extended league campaigns to decide who should be in the Tailteann Cup and qualifiers, the question is whether the dividing line should have been set at 16.
This means teams eliminated from Division 2 are not eligible to qualify that season (unless they reach a provincial finals). how hard is that
Division 2 is very competitive, as highlighted this year. Derry and Galway were both in Division 2 but beat Tyrone and Mayo respectively in the Championship. Roscommon beat Galway twice and drew with Derry in the league, further underscoring the quality of the group.
In these circumstances, it is easy to fall into the relegation zone, which now entails exclusion from the qualifiers.
I’ve argued for years that if a second tier championship were to be instituted, it should feature a bottom 12 rather than a bottom 16. Aside from four more teams getting their chance in the qualifiers, there would be four Division 3s and all Division 4 teams have a better chance of winning the Tailteann Cup.
If this were true this year the following 12 (plus New York) using five year rankings in the Tailteann Cup would be: Offaly, Longford, Louth, Limerick, Antrim, Sligo, Wicklow, Leitrim, Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, London. Ten of them will be there, but so will Cavan.
They will be joined by Tipperary (promoted from Division 4 this year) if they lose to Limerick next Saturday. Oddly enough, Limerick (promoted from Division 3) will go into the qualifiers if they lose.
It would be a shame if poor design marred the Tailteann Cup in its first year. Taking the latest league tables and putting two many teams in the second tier is a mistake that can do just that.
The Tailteann Cup was supposed to be about incentivizing weaker circles, but unfortunately, not enough thought was given to who exactly they were.
Cavan is certainly not one of them.
Another big win for player power
Never underestimate the power of protest.
Even pitches that have been declared unavailable can suddenly become operational, as happened after the Mayo hurlers demanded their Christy Ring Cup clash with Derry be played at Castlebar instead of Ballina next Saturday.
They were upset that MacHale Park was unavailable for work on the pitch, despite the Mayo vs Galway Connacht SFC game being played on 24 April.
They will now prevail after Mayo told GAA that while the recommended rest period for the surface was five to six weeks, “a doubling of ground crew effort now means the pitch will be available.”
The days of players being told that venue decisions had nothing to do with them ended in 2018 with the Newbridge or Nowhere saga.
Munster City Council ignored this and got their footballers involved in a war over the Cork vs Kerry venue last Saturday. The players won the argument, as did the Mayo hurlers.
A Déise shot to kill two big birds?
Limerick Hurlers only played four games in the 2015, ’16 and ’17 Munster Championship, with their only win coming in 2015 against Clare.
When the GAA decided to introduce the round-robin championships in Leinster and Munster in 2018, few could have predicted the riches that lay in store for Limerick.
The golden streak continues and they have already achieved their first goal of the season by securing a spot in the All-Ireland Championship ahead of their final group game against Clare.
The question is – which two will lose? If Liam Cahills beat Waterford Cork on Sunday, neither the Rebels nor Tipperary could make the top three.
Tipperary suffered this fate in 2018; Clare was also sacked in 2019, while Waterford did not finish in the top three in either year.
They’re determined to avoid that this time around and seem well placed to make it happen. In fact, one suspects that one would like to kill Münster’s two largest birds (traditionally) with one shot in Walsh Park.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/why-cavan-are-the-cuckoo-in-the-tailteann-cups-flimsy-nest-41636920.html Martin Breheny: “Why Cavan is the cuckoo in the Tailteann Cup’s thin nest”