'When you play a Division 4 final and you have 300 at it, where's the GAA going with that?'

Westmeath star John Heslin has raised some pertinent issues.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

WESTMEATH STAR JOHN Heslin has voiced fears about the future of some inter-county teams if a two-tier senior football championship becomes a reality.

Heslin is worried that the interest of the bottom 16 teams will dwindle if that type of structure is introduced.

And Heslin has called on the GAA to market their games better, citing the examples of the Premier League and American sports, admittedly professional, as how it should be done.

Heslin also believes that ‘short-sightedness’ has allowed a situation to develop where, realistically, just a handful of counties harbour realistic hopes of winning this year’s All-Ireland senior football title.

And he lamented the fact that although Westmeath claimed Allianz Football League Division 4 glory at Croke Park this year, a just 5,823 present at GAA HQ for that game and the Division 3 decider between Tipperary and Louth.

John Heslin with Jonny Cooper John Heslin in action against Dublin's Jonny Cooper during last year's Leinster SFC final. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Heslin, speaking on the latest RTE GAA podcast, said: “If you think about it, back in the day, how many teams were able to win the All-Ireland anyway, and how that hasn’t been developed?

“Are we narrow-minded and short-sighted that we just let things happen in their own way? The way the GAA has gone, and the money around, how have we not put structures in place to develop competitiveness?

“When you play a Division 4 League final and you have probably 300 people at it, where’s the GAA going with that?”

And Heslin wonders if the GAA has a long-term plan for future of its championships, warning that some counties may sink without trace.

How are we going to improve our games going forward? What is our ten or 20-year plan? If you go into a two-tier championship, are the other 16 teams going to fall away?

“You have the ‘super 8′ coming in but are you going to be left with a fewer proportion of teams playing the game?”

Heslin also questioned the underage structures in his own county, asking: “In Westmeath, what development has gone on?

“I’ve mentioned this before to GPA officials and other GAA officials and they say it’s up to the county board but are the county boards in a position to look after the development of underage coming through? There’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed, as well as the championship structures.”

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Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Heslin added: “If there are people involved in the GAA getting paid, is there not someone out there who can oversee the whole thing?

“For example, how the Premier League market (games), that’s a professional outfit, fine, but look at how the Americans market their Leagues.

“How are we going to increase the amount of people going to our games in ten years time?

“You increase the competitiveness of the game and the attractiveness of the sport, but are we training our underage and putting a prize on offer to keep them playing GAA, as opposed to playing soccer and rugby?”

You can hear more from John Heslin by clicking on the link below…

Source: RTĖ Sport/SoundCloud

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