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Fermanagh fans not keen on two-tier Championship idea

After thrilling wins over Roscommon and Westmeath, many are expecting an abrupt end to Fermanagh's fairytale when they meet Dublin this weekend
Off the Fence with Cahair O'Kane

RATHER than getting a bus to Croke Park on Saturday, Fermanagh have hired a truck and trailer.

Rather their dashing traditional green, their players will wear woollen coats.

Rather than enjoying a frolic upon the green swathes of Croke Park, they will be chased by Jim Gavin’s men and slaughtered like helpless little lambs.

So reads the narrative that 31 counties are reading this week. Nobody is giving Fermanagh any sort of chance of winning in Croke Park.

In Tuesday’s Against The Breeze, Paddy Heaney did little to dissuade such thinking. He instead encouraged an element of realism and reiterated the growing call for a two-tiered championship.

Many agreed. Except those from Fermanagh.

“Nonsense,” said Gerard on Facebook.

“Any so called "weaker" county would rather have one big scalp and a chance at a well deserved crack at an All-Ireland quarter final in Croke Park than play in a two-bob competition which would create no excitement for fans and therefore would lead to lower attendances and gate receipts for the GAA. It was tried with the Tommy Murphy Cup and didn't work. This is just Joe Brolly-type drivel.”

I play football for a junior club in Derry. On Tuesday night we secured ourselves a promotion play-off. We hope, like everyone else, to win a championship. I’d far rather have those realistic aims and ambitions than fanciful, unrealistic notions of beating Slaughtneil or Ballinderry. The same should apply to the inter-county game. Fermanagh have done brilliantly to reach the last eight but what does the long term hold for them? When this team is all retired, will their careers be defined by reaching an All-Ireland quarter-final? Would they not rather win a meaningful competition and achieve progress in that manner?

Another Facebook poster, Anthony, added: “Can't wait for Fermanagh to play the Dubs. Fed up of hearing every year they’re the best and unstoppable. See what happened last year? Give us a break from listening to this steam roll s**t. Up the Ernemen.”

What happened last year was that Dublin were beaten by the 2012 All-Ireland champions.

Garrett also commented online to the effect that the separation of the tiers during the National League is sufficient and that Championship should be all-in.

“It's unfortunate that Paddy Heaney ever learned to write or talk. Have you not got a mind of your own, or do you copy everything Joe Brolly says? We have a national league which separates teams by ability.

“Nobody will be interested in watching or competing in a second rate championship. It would be detrimental to football in said county. The "weak" would get weaker and the strong stronger. We'll take our chances on Sunday.”

The key to the proposal for a two-tier All-Ireland is that the ‘B’ championship is not a “two-bob” competition. I’d be fairly sure the prospect of playing on All-Ireland final day would earn the competition the respect it deserves.

No week of summer would be complete without some sort of Joe Brolly-inspired controversy.

Yesterday’s Irish News reported that the GAA has registered a complaint with national broadcaster RTÉ over Joe Brolly’s comments about Armagh referee Pádraig Hughes.

The Dungiven man was highly critical of Hughes’ decision to award Kerry a penalty in the drawn Munster final a few weeks back, and revisited the incident on Sunday night’s highlights show.

Referees’ chief Seán Walsh slammed the criticism as “very, very personalised” and defended Hughes' Munster final display on the whole.

On Twitter, Alan summed the whole thing up fairly well: “GAA gunning to get Joe the sack. They weren't so bothered about Spillane when he compared Donegal to the Taliban.”

And while no-one was exactly defending Joe, the general public was at least able to see that what’s good for the goose should feed the gander too.

Patrick said: “Players’ performances are analysed in depth post-match. Referees should be no different!”

Peter added: “So he can say what he wants about players but the minute he mentions a ref, the GAA complain. Typical.”

Referees should absolutely be subject to the same scrutiny as players. The only flaw in Seán Walsh’s whole argument was that he used Martin Carney’s judgement on the Munster final penalty call for weight.

In a letter entitled “McCorry not to blame”, with ‘Down Senior football management’ parenthesised just in case we weren’t sure what it was about, ‘Disgruntled Down fan’ paints a fairly bleak picture.

“Contrary to popular opinion, many of Down’s current problems are rooted in the James McCartan management era. It is also entirely wrong to state that “Down just don’t have the players” (Ross Carr last week).

“We can’t ignore the fact that Down won back-to-back Ulster under-21 titles in 2008 and 2009. Surely 7 or 8 of these players (many from the smaller clubs) should have formed the backbone of the current Down senior team?

“Unfortunately McCartan failed to bring these players through and instead tried to develop a plethora of Burren (including his two brothers) and Kilcoo players, who were simply not good enough. It should be remembered that Down’s run to the 2010 All-Ireland final was a complete fluke – courtesy of Kerry fielding a reserve team at the quarter-final stage. This did no service whatsoever for the cause of Down football.

“The future of Down football does look grim, but to blame Jim McCorry or underage structures is a mistake. Of course, the Down cause is further impeded when the power brokers at executive level have no experience of either playing or managing football teams at any serious level.”

Of those two Ulster under-21 winning teams, there were five who started for Down against Derry in June. The same number started for Derry. When you take Paul McComiskey out of the equation as well, that isn’t a particularly bad return. It appears, from the outside, grossly unfair on Jim McCorry that the executive should want rid of him after a season in which they were promoted to Division One. It’s equally unfair to James McCartan to lambast him for using players from Kilcoo and Burren, given that they were the two strongest clubs at senior level during his tenure.

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