GAA Football

Tier two will have no room to breathe: Gallagher

Derry❝s Benny Heron during the Allianz GAA Football League Division 3 round 2 between Down and Derry at Páirc Esler Newry on 02-01-2020. Pic Philip Walsh.

THE attraction of heavyweight All-Ireland SFC qualifiers will offer little room for the tier two championship to breathe, believes Derry boss Rory Gallagher.

While the qualifiers have always been hit-and-miss in terms of their attractiveness given the involvement of teams from the lower tiers of the league, that ought to change amid the championship's reformation this summer.

Only teams from the top two divisions will take part in the qualifiers, which are reduced from four rounds down to two. The prospect of glamour ties will increase exponentially.

The All-Ireland SFC preliminary round, if required, is down for the same day as the first round of the tier two championship, June 20.

Round one of the qualifiers proper clashes with the tier two quarter-finals the following weekend, although the SFC round two ties and tier two semi-finals are split across the weekend of July 4/5.

Counties had been promised that the tier two final would be played alongside a Super 8s game in Croke Park, but the GAA's fixture list gives no guarantees that there will be a SFC game at the venue that weekend.

Gallagher believes that the volume of big games that could potentially go against tier two ties will stretch resources in the media profession and leave the second tier games without exposure.

“If you look at your own profession, the media outlets, and the amount of games that will be on at the time it's played.

“You must remember, taking the teams from Division Three and Four out of it, the football qualifiers are going to be much more attractive now.

“There will be big games, you could have Kildare, Tyrone, Galway, Mayo, Monaghan, Cork in the qualifiers, these are going to be wow games.

“Previously you might have had Tyrone playing a Carlow or Longford, or Derry playing Dublin, it wouldn't have caught the imagination of people.

“Your resources won't spread far enough to give it attention. People say you need a tiered championship to create a level playing field – you have the National League, where you play at your own level.

“Everybody's entitled to try and be the best, and that's been robbed from the teams in Division Three and Four. You have the league, now you're getting no opportunity.

“You might say the provincial, that's one game. I think it's giving in to media pressure. We have the league, seven games against teams at your own level – what more do people want?”

Gallagher, whose side face Louth this weekend, feels that while the length of the inter-county season isn't affected by the removal of two rounds from the All-Ireland SFC, the club game must use up more of what is left around the county fixture list.

“There's no right fix, I can understand that. My own experience in Donegal, Fermanagh, I see Derry club fixtures being run well. There's been a lot of learning on club fixtures.

“I'm involved with Killybegs. We'd 18 league games, and fair enough you only had county men for nine of them. Then you have three group games in the championship and in Donegal it's wrapped up by September 20 if you're out at the quarter-final.

“I think there's nothing wrong with playing club football in October. We're shortening the club season, it's now running from the end of March for six months.

“I see nothing wrong with playing club games in October and November. We're shortening the club season far too much.

“With Killybegs, I'd rather we played in October with county players than playing away in June and July without them. I just think it's too short a club season.

“Finishing up on September 20 and you don't kick another competitive ball until the following March? It's crazy. How do you get better in that short space of time?

“People write a lot about Dublin and them doing everything right. When did Dublin play their league final this year? I'm nearly sure the start of December.

“I remember playing a league final in Dublin around December 22, and nobody complains. If you don't play Gaelic football in Dublin, you'll be lost to rugby and soccer.”

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