First things first: the GAA Rankings website and system has nothing to do with the GAA itself, or any of its subsidiary boards or committees. It’s an unofficial experiment pursued solely for the craic.
The system aims to remove some of the speculation about which team, simply, is the best – and which team is better than others.
Oddly enough, the system was devised and developed during the course of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – and leans on the similar World Football Elo Ratings system, which aims to offer a non-FIFA method for ranking international soccer teams. That system is built on a database of every single international soccer fixture (ever!) to give every side a rating which accurately reflects its results against its peers over time.
Germany won the 2014 World Cup, with an extra-time goal securing a 1-0 win over Argentina in the final. Is that Germany team the greatest international team ever? You’d probably struggle to find too many people who’d say so. But, based on the Elo system, that win gave Germany a ratings score of 2200 – a level higher than any other team in the history of international football. (The Brazil team of 1970 peaked at 2127; the Hungary team of 1954 reached 2166.)
The beauty of this kind of system is that if you have a database that goes back far enough, you can compare not only the teams which exist at present, but also the teams that exist at any point in time. The Elo model is a balanced and sensible model which makes sure that an important victory over a high-ranked team is more valued than an easy win over a poor team in a friendly. (You can find a full mathematical explanation about how our model works by visiting the Calculations page.) This GAA model was inspired by this goal, hoping to build (over time) a similar model.
It may also have a more practical use in future. There’s regularly calls for an overhaul of the Championship structures, with the suggestion of round robin-style tournaments with some sense of seeding involved, to ensure an equal spread of strength throughout groups. FIFA and UEFA are able to do that for their international qualifiers – but only because they’ve got a transparent international ranking system to identify the ‘best’ teams. Within the GAA it’s not quite so clear-cut – you can’t simply say the four provincial champions are the four best teams in Ireland, for example – and perhaps this GAA Rankings system could end up being the first step to a similar system for finding the strongest teams and seeding them accordingly.
Is the modern Dublin side better than the Kerry side that won eight All-Irelands in 13 years? Which were better – the Kilkenny four-in-a-row hurling team of 2006-2009, or the Cork four-in-a-row of 1941-1944? This GAA Rankings model hopes to offer some perspective on those questions – and ignite some more debate, insight and discussion along the way.
And sure, isn’t that why we love sport in the first place?
Want to know more? Read the Frequently Asked Questions.