Thursday 8 December 2016

McGrath leads managerial opposition to new football plan

Published 05/08/2016 | 02:30

But Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath, who guided them to the ‘last eight’ in 2015, feels it removes the potential for a “big breakthrough”. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
But Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath, who guided them to the ‘last eight’ in 2015, feels it removes the potential for a “big breakthrough”. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

A number of inter-county football managers have reacted with some scepticism to the latest plan for championship reform that will see All-Ireland quarter-finals replaced by two groups of four teams playing each other over three weekends to determine All-Ireland semi-finalists.

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The plan, driven by GAA director-general Páraic Duffy and president Aogán ó Fearghail, is a creative one and will be put to the November meeting of Central Council for approval to go to Congress.

But Fermanagh manager Peter McGrath, who guided them to the 'last eight' in 2015, feels it removes the potential for a "big breakthrough" like Tipperary experienced last weekend.

"Having group stages would practically remove that in one fell swoop," he said.

McGrath also feels that the prospect of 'dead rubber' games between two teams who have lost their opening games is too much of a possibility when competition needs to be at its sharpest edge at that stage of the season.

"It looks to me like it guarantees that the big teams won't be caught out," McGrath (pictured) said.

Clare manager Colm Collins said the plans were what Tipperary and Clare "get for getting above their station."

"If you take the championship as a horse race and the same horse keeps winning the race, what the people do is look and see how they can change the conditions of the race and give everyone a genuine chance. But the more the top guns keep winning, the more the odds are stacked in their favour.

"You need to give a bit of light to counties. There was a great buzz when we started to get on a run but that buzz must be experienced by other counties."

Sligo manager Niall Carew suggested that if the plans were "flipped" and a round-robin series was introduced for teams beaten earlier in the championship, it would be more acceptable.

"The bigger teams are getting more games when it's the less successful counties who should be getting them," he said.

The plan allows for the eight teams to play one group game at home, one away and one in Croke Park.

Meanwhile, Mickey Harte has kept the faith with Tyrone's starting 15 for tomorrow's All-Ireland SFC quarter-final against Mayo with All-Star Mattie Donnelly passed fit despite suffering a head injury in a recent club game. Similarly, Ronan O'Neill gets the all-clear at corner-forward having overcome a minor injury as the Red Hand look to book a semi-final date with Tipperary in a fortnight's time.

Irish Independent

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