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'Horrific decision taken by out-of-touch delegates' - Carlow boss blasts Tier 2 ruling


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Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien has branded the introduction of a Tier 2 football championship "a horrifically bad decision that has no chance of being successful" and predicted that many players won't be interested in a competition which begins a three-year trial in 2020.

He also claims that the GAA at central level is out of touch, that elitism is steering the Association towards a form of professionalism and that "there will be a revolution unless we decide who we are, what we stand for and where we are going as an organisation".

He wants a major strategic review to be undertaken across every area of activity, pointing out that it has been more than 17 years since the last in-depth report.

"An awful lot has changed since then. There were many good things about that report. Some are still relevant today, but we need a new vision for the future because there's real unease out there among the membership at the moment," he said.

He warns that elitism is becoming ever more prevalent and fears that it will inevitably lead to semi-professionalism.

"We're heading for a revolution in the organisation unless we work out what's best for everybody and take steps to implement it. It can't all be about 'Super 8s' and the top teams," he said.

O'Brien, who will be in charge of Carlow for a sixth season next year, is strongly opposed to the Tier 2 championship, claiming it will merely reinforce the gap between the stronger counties and the rest.

"How does it help a squad to develop? It's just a re-run of the league with fewer games. I know from dealing with Carlow players over the years that they want to play in the qualifiers and I bet most players from other Division 3 and 4 counties are the same.

"They want to have a second go at the championship after the provincials and play the stronger teams. Instead, they're blocked from that and sent into Tier 2 to play among themselves.

"We're told it will be promoted well and it might be for a year or two, but will that continue? I doubt it," he said.

Selecting an All-Star team from Tier 2 and rewarding them with an overseas trip is being proposed, but that does not impress O’Brien.

“If you have to offer incentives to make a competition attractive, there’s something wrong with it in the first place,” he said.

He rejects the theory that because a tiered format works in hurling, where there are five levels, it can be successful with two in football.

“It’s not a valid comparison. Hurling has a lot of counties where there are only a few clubs. Football is different. Every county can compete if the set-up is right.

“Okay, so they won’t win

All-Irelands but how many counties win them anyway? We have seen counties from Divisions 1 and 2 take some very heavy defeats.

“But if it happens a Division 3, or especially a Division 4 team, we’re told they shouldn’t even be in the qualifiers,” said O’Brien.

He accuses the GAA centrally of being out of touch with the mood at club level, where frustration levels are running high.

“Provincial councils have a better feeling about what’s going on. At Croke Park level, they’re trying to match international sports.

Inevitable

“It’s leading to elitism and that will take it towards some form of semi-professionalism. It’s inevitable, and telling players from 16 counties they are in Tier 2 in the championship will only make things worse,” he said.

O’Brien also believes that the gap is being widened by financial capacity, including overseas.

“Counties are fundraising in the US to provide more and more money to spend on county teams.

“The more successful the county, the more they can get but isn’t there something wrong with all this money being raised just to spend on county teams? Apart from anything else, it’s unfair on the GAA in American cities as it’s taking funds from them,” he said.

O’Brien has serious concerns over how the club game is being squeezed, leading to deep frustration among many players.

“This is a great time of year for the club game, with county finals being played up and down the country. Huge numbers are turning out to watch them because the public love the club game.

“But what happens for much of the year? Players are left without games for long stretches.

“Maybe the club should be No 1, with county second. Maybe inter-county players should train with their clubs mostly. For that to work, it would have to apply everywhere.

“These are the questions we should be seeking answers for. That’s why we need a strategic review – and quickly too,” he said.

Irish Independent