Laois and Offaly need to merge, insists McTague
Laois and Offaly would be better off amalgamating for inter-county purposes, according to Offaly place-kicking legend Tony McTague.
McTague, considered one of the greatest free-takers ever, was inducted into the GAA's new Hall of Fame theatre in Croke Park yesterday and took the opportunity to reflect on how Offaly may never again be able to reach the altitude they achieved in 1971, '72 and '82.
He feels that with the stronger GAA counties getting even stronger, amalgamations should be on the agenda.
McTague accepts that his view will be seen as "heresy", but he argues his case emphatically.
"The idea of weak counties ever appearing again on the big stage, is over. I think that weaker counties should be given an option, even though some might not take it up, of amalgamating with a county that borders them, to have a realistic chance of taking on the big guys.
"All counties have their pride but they should have the option to amalgamate because it's unequal now, and it doesn't make sense.
"Laois and Offaly are, politically, the one constituency. I'm sure a lot of people might think, 'what's that fella talking about? Is he drunk?' Obviously, Offaly have been successful to some extent, but I don't see anything wrong with it. I know I'll be shot down by 99.9pc, however."
McTague believes that the introduction of the qualifiers has militated against the smaller counties over the last decade.
"The back-door system was brought in to have All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals. Now weak counties are beaten twice in one year and the strong counties get two chances," he said.
He recalled how eight of Offaly's 1971 All-Ireland winning team had won a minor title seven years earlier and such a high level of graduation from that team was imperative for a county with their population.
McTague is also in favour of implementing the mark from a kick-out caught between the two '45s' as proposed by the Football Review Committee and on the programme for Congress next month.
"I think the idea of marking the ball between the '45s' would be a good rule. Good kicking is obviously important, but good fielding is number one," he said.