Sunday 23 July 2017

O'Brien no fan of plan 'B' as Carlow chase last-14 place

Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Keep your All-Ireland 'B' championship because players don't want it - that's the blunt response from Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien to those who favour the introduction of a secondary competition for so-called weaker counties.

"I see no merit in it. Whatever you call it or whatever way you dress it up, it will still be a 'B' competition. The players or the public won't go for that," he said.

Championship structures are not especially high on the Carlow agenda right now as they prepare for a game which could see them make history on Saturday.

Leitrim, whom they play in a Round 2B qualifier in Netwatch Cullen Park, are in the same exciting boat.

The winners will move into the last 14 of the All-Ireland race for the first time since the introduction of the qualifiers in 2001.

Carlow's win over Wexford, followed by a spirited performance against Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final, has sent interest soaring in the county.

And while they had a close call against London in the qualifiers - winning by a point in Ruislip - there's a quiet confidence that they can beat Leitrim for what would be only their seventh qualifier win.

Competitive

It's still quite some way ahead of Leitrim, who have won only two qualifiers in 16 years. Carlow produced a defiant effort against Dublin and while they eventually lost by 12 points, they were competitive for most of the way. That was in marked contrast to Westmeath, who lost to Dublin by 31 points in the semi-final.

O'Brien was surprised by how Westmeath set up against Dublin, believing that lower-ranked team cannot risk going toe-to-toe with the major powers.

"What we learned against Dublin was that if you set up your structure right and stick by it, you can be competitive.

"I think it was a serious miscalculation by Westmeath to take Dublin on as they did.

"The problem with a one-sided game like that is that it gives ammunition to those who want to see two championships.

"That's not in anyone's interests. Players would lose interest in a 'B' championship. So too would the public and what would you be left with then?

"I'd much prefer to see counties getting their houses in order so that they can be competitive with whatever is put in front of them," added O'Brien.

It's most unusual for Carlow to be warm favourites to book a place in the last 14 of the All-Ireland championship, so O'Brien is cautious about what lies ahead on Saturday, especially since Leitrim beat his side by two points in Division 4 this year.

However, they then suffered a heavy defeat to Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final.

Irish Independent

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