GAA Football

Decision to shoe-horn through Tier Two Championship 'doesn't make any sense' says Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson

Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson says he 'cannot understand' why a Tier Two Championship was shoe-horned through last month, before the Fixtures Review Committee published its recommendations. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

ANTRIM boss Lenny Harbinson believes the GAA has missed a trick by “shoe-horning” through a Tier Two Championship before taking into consideration the views of the Fixtures Review Committee (FRC).

The introduction of a second tier inter-county football Championship received the support of over two-thirds of delegates at last month’s Special Congress – just weeks before the FRC was set to publish its recommendations.

As a result, the Club Players’ Association last week announced its decision to withdraw from the fixtures taskforce. The FRC had been set to deliver its conclusions to the GAA's management committee and central council last Saturday, but that has been put back until early next month.

Harbinson, who would have been “reasonably pro a secondary competition”, admitted he was surprised at the haste with which the Tier Two Championship was introduced.

“I cannot understand why the president [John Horan] shoe-horned through a competition a number of weeks before the Football Review Committee issued their report and their recommendations,” he said.

“It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I’m also slightly disappointed in what they’ve proposed; I thought they might’ve done something like groups of four where you have at least three games, playing in good weather and those games would be similar to what you have in the League, which is all pretty competitive.”

It is proposed that the Tier Two Championship will be contested between counties from Division Three and Four of the National League once they have been eliminated from their provincial Championship.

Exceptions will be any counties that reach their provincial finals and, from next year, the holders of the Tier Two Championship.

But Harbinson feels this structure “doesn’t incentivise players” who, he believes, would be attracted by the lure of more Championship games during the summer.

“They would’ve been better doing away with the provincial Championships, allow the provincial organisations to have their competition in January as the introduction to the season.

“Have your All-Ireland series based maybe across four groups of eight, then factoring in the likes of the Gaels in London and New York.

“Out of those four groups, the top four qualify to go into the Sam Maguire series, the bottom four of each of those groups go into the second tier, and then as you get to the latter stages of that competition the semi-finals and final are played prior to big games in Croke Park, with an Allstar scheme and whatever else.

“That way it keeps everybody in the pot; if you’re fit for purpose in terms of competing for the Sam Maguire, and if you’re not there’s a secondary competition. The key thing is that you will have a number of games where you’re playing football in June and July when you want to play football.

“By playing competitive games at that time of year, you’re hoping the standard would improve. Something like that would be a more simplistic way of allowing everybody to have a go at Sam Maguire, and on your own merits you either qualify or you don’t.

“When you move into the summer season, with the longer nights, there’s no reason why games couldn’t be played on a Friday as well as a Monday night. With a wee bit of creative thought, a better solution could have been reached.”

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GAA Football