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GAA Football

'Lack of respect' a deterrent to 'B' Championship says Poacher

Carlow coach Steven Poacher says the “lack of respect” shown towards Division Four football is the reality that would face teams in a ‘B’ championship.

CARLOW coach Steven Poacher says the “lack of respect” shown towards Division Four football is the reality that would face teams in a ‘B' championship.

New GAA president John Horan yesterday told The Herald that he wants the All-Ireland SFC split in two by the time his term of office ends in 2021.

The structure of the championships will change this summer with the introduction of the Super 8s, and that will not be changed until the three-year trial expires at the end of the 2020 season.

Alongside Turlough O'Brien, Poacher helped Carlow on their best championship adventure in recent years last summer, where they contained the might of Dublin better than most, and then gave Monaghan an almighty scare in the Qualifiers.

The Down native says that the comparison between the impact those two games had compared to what might become of a ‘B' championship was reason enough to oppose the idea.

”You go and ask any Clare supporters or Tipperary supporter, would they have swapped their run to a quarter-final or semi-final for a ‘B' championship played in front of an empty Croke Park? Absolutely no way.

“Same as ourselves last year. People may argue you played a couple of Division Four teams on the way and that's fine, but the bottom line is we played Dublin and Monaghan, and got the exposure of live TV.

“Regardless of what way the GAA sell a ‘B' competition, I cannot explain the impact that's had further down the food chain.

“The impact it's had with the Carlow Colts (their development squads), they're all jumping on this, the exposure the county got last year, and there's a momentum behind the whole thing that has really lifted the whole county.

“For young fellas in that county, it has done wonders. Do you think those fellas will get the same buzz playing in a ‘B' championship in an empty stadium somewhere?

“If we're gonna look at it, let's look at the respect the counties are shown on a Sunday evening. One week, I think they didn't even mention Division Four on the Sunday League programme. If that's the level of respect…

“Last year, we beat Leitrim last year in the championship and The Sunday Game showed highlights for 54 seconds. Against Wexford, Paul Broderick scored 10 points, six or seven from play, some of them from 50 yards, and they didn't show them.

“That was Carlow's first Leinster Championship win in six or seven years, and you think if that's the level of respect you're going to get, what is the point in going to a ‘B' championship?

“The bigger will get bigger and the smaller will get smaller, and it'll do nobody any favours.”

Poacher, who is also Head of PE at St Columban's Kilkeel, compared Carlow's place in the food chain to his experience in helping the school win an All-Ireland U16 Vocational Schools title in 2007.

“If teams are organised and set up in a way that makes them competitive, then surely you can be competitive. I'm very passionate on this, and it's not just that I'm working with Carlow.

“I see it in school as well, 10 years ago we won an All-Ireland ‘A' Vocational Schools title.

“We were the last Down school to win one at that age, we had a population of 190 pupils and 85 or 90 of them were boys. We went into an Ulster final in Clones against St Paul's Bessbrook, who had 1600 pupils.

“If competitions had been tiered and we had been told ‘because of your size, you're going into tier C', we would never have got that experience. You do have underdog stories.

“Look at the FA Cup, there's over 700 clubs start in it and 32 qualify for the first round with professional clubs, and they're dreaming of that day against Man United or Chelsea.

“The Champions League's the same. Rugby's no different. Any competition, whether it's a World Cup in soccer or rugby, the Champions League, Gaelic football, hurling, whatever, there's nobody outside the top 3 or 4 going to win it anyway. Why should counties be denied a big day out?”

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