Cream will rise to the top regardless of structures used
The Premier League hype-fest is back with the loudest of bangs, and it will be impossible to avoid it from now until May, 2016.
I started off as I intend to continue Saturday night, following my normal routine of watching 'Match Of The Day' while reading a newspaper during the inane waffle which somehow passes as analysis in between the highlights of each game.
I have no difficulty looking at a 90-minute match as a spectator and find that the time passes by a lot faster when you are actually there in the flesh.
However, it's hard work for me to sit through a 'Super Sunday' or 'Monday Night Football' offering from start to finish without reading something at the same time and looking towards the television when it sounds like something of interest might be happening.
And let me hastily add, my ambivalence towards televised soccer extends to G.A.A. games as well. For example, I found the closing quarter of Sunday's All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Waterford mind-numbingly dull as the losers repeated the same mantra of landing high, hopeful balls in the general direction of Maurice Shanahan time and time again, even though it patently wasn't working.
Oddly enough, I raised the topic of the Premier League at the start of the column in order to highlight a G.A.A. matter which is getting on my wick right now.
I skimmed my way through a number of start-of-season previews during the week, and every single analyst or pundit was unanimous in the inclusion of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City in their top four predictions. The order may have differed, but the clubs remained the same.
And to extend it a little further, the leading six of practically everyone surveyed also featured Spurs and Liverpool.
Despite the predictable nature of how the year will end, soccer followers more ardent than yours truly will follow the action kick for kick from now until the end of the season and will feed off the comments of managers and players alike with absolute relish.
With so many games to play, it stands to reason that the underdogs will have some good days too, but everyone knows that Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Norwich and the like won't be in the final shake-up. That doesn't mean they haven't earned their right to compete with the big boys though, and neither is it a sign that the game in general is in terminal decline.
It is a simple matter of fact in sport that regardless of what formula is deployed to run a competition, the cream will always rise to the top.
And that's why the current G.A.A. discourse calling for a second tier championship is bugging me so much. I'm fed up listening to pundits coming out with that over-used phrase, 'something has to be done'. Ah yes, something, but what exactly?
It helps if that comment is accompanied by an anguished facial expression. Regular followers of 'The Sunday Game' should think of Ciarán Whelan at his most serious-looking as a case in point.
No matter what championship system is used, the Kerrys, Dublins, Kilkennys and Tipperarys of this world will always be at or near the top, and more than half the counties in both codes won't have a snowball's chance in hell of an outright win.
And how would a split be decided anyway in football? Depending on what day the division was made, Kildare would have been in the top half after the Cork game and in the bottom after the Kerry debacle for example. A Champions League-style experiment does have its merits, but a second-tier competition would be a waste of time.
Finally, I have been known to tousle the hair of my eleven-month-old niece from time to time but I need to be more careful from now on. I don't want to risk getting a red card from my sister and being banished from their house for my actions.
Seriously though, I'm not sure what was more shameful about Saturday's incident in the Tyrone v. Monaghan game: Tiernan McCann's cowardly dive or the fact that referee Marty Duffy punished Darren Hughes with a dismissal. Feigning injury is the biggest problem facing the G.A.A. at the minute in my view, and it's absolutely sickening to see it going unpunished.