Thursday 26 April 2018

Bosses backing 'B' championship with chance of re-entry

Louth manager Colin Kelly (SPORTSFILE)
Louth manager Colin Kelly (SPORTSFILE)
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Rival Leinster managers have given backing to the concept of a 'B' championship that offers a pathway back to the mainstream Championship at some point later in the summer.

Ahead of a Central Council meeting this weekend to determine what motion, if any, should be forwarded to Congress a month later for consideration in relation to Championship reform, Louth's Colin Kelly and Wicklow's Johnny Magee have said they both believe such a Championship could work for Division 4 teams, provided a link was retained.

Among the three proposals circulated is a 'B' championship for the eight lowest-ranked league teams (provided they don't reach their provincial finals) that offers qualification for the qualifiers proper the following year.

But Central Council may consider an amendment which could re-introduce 'B' winners to a later round of the qualifiers in the same year.

In their submission to the GAA's Management Committee in December the Central Competitions Control Committee noted that it could be potentially amended to include provision for the winners to re-enter in a preliminary quarter-final.

Kelly's Louth find themselves in Division 4 after the county dropped two divisions in two years and he has been vocal about the need for a second tier.

"Historically football is about Championship. The focus has changed away from that but when you go into a dressing-room you have to be able to sell them something tangible. How realistic is it for every manager in Leinster, not only myself, to tell them they can win a Championship," he asked.

He is adamant that such a competition can only work if a link with the current Championship is retained.

"I'm not saying we all can strive to win Sam Maguire and Delaney Cups but the reality of it is that if there is some competition that is meaningful and has the proper status that would allow elevation to play for Sam Maguire, well then absolutely," he said.

"What I wouldn't want to see would be the GAA becoming elitist for 10 or 12 counties and the rest becoming also-rans, making up the numbers.

"When I was playing it was the dream to play Dublin in Croke Park. How many teams now really want to draw Dublin in Croke Park in the first round of the Leinster Championship? And it's not Dublin's fault. It's about the rest of us coming up to that level."

Kelly, whose Louth team play Meath in an O'Byrne Cup semi-final, feels they have been making progress since a difficult 2015 that saw the drain of players away from the squad continue.

"It's so much harder to get players. For whatever reason I can't say. We have an open door to anyone who wanted to play for Louth. The amount of fellas who can't commit for various reasons. . . look at the fixture demands," he said.

"I remember playing an O'Byrne Cup with Louth in the middle of May. Now you play three games in a week. The League was played over a six-month period with plenty of time through matches.

"I'm trying to bring a young squad together there, we can't have our college players and we have to play three games in seven days."

Magee has expressed similar sentiments, having witnessed a turnover of 21 players during his three years of involvement with Wicklow.

"I spent a full week ringing different players to come in and play U-21 (he's also U-21 manager). Players are disillusioned. They see what happened last year, the 'tankings' some of the so-called weaker counties got," he said.

"A lot of effort goes in to getting lads up to a certain level and then to get tanked by 15 or 20 points."

But he too feels a secondary competition that gives a route back to the Championship would give something tangible to aim for.

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