GAA Football

Paddy Tally: Revised Championship a missed opportunity

Down❝s Paddy Tally before the Allianz GAA Football League Division 3 round 2 between Down and Derry at Páirc Esler Newry on 02-01-2020. Pic Philip Walsh.
Paul Keane

Down manager Paddy Tally has described the revised football Championship setup as a 'missed opportunity' to bring equality to the lopsided provincial based system.

Former Galway, Tyrone and Derry coach Tally favoured abandoning the provincial structure and replacing it with an all-island open draw.

In that scenario, all counties could have started their campaign at the same time and a set number of games to win the All-Ireland would have been established.

The GAA instead reverted to the old provincial knock-out structure which means Cavan and Monaghan will need four wins to claim the Ulster title.

Meanwhile, in Munster and Connacht, Kerry and Galway will require just two wins to secure their provincial title.

Tally told John Fegan on the Down based 'Load of Balls' podcast that the system isn't 'fair' for Ulster counties in a 'minefield' province.

"I wouldn't be overly delighted to be honest with you, I think this was a missed opportunity," said Tally of the structure.

"I think in the year it was, and a few months back I was asked this question, and I felt this was the opportunity to throw it open.

"The reason we moved away from the old system was to increase the level of opportunity and fairness throughout the country. But we're back to that again.

"It seems a retrograde step in my opinion. Okay, we are constrained by the pandemic and the way things are this year but I felt the GAA just went back too quickly to the older system without exploring, 'Was there an easier way to do this? Could we have done this with an open draw system?'

"Because really the Ulster championship becomes a minefield and a battlefield now. We look across Ireland and we see that some teams win two matches and are in an All-Ireland semi-final whereas in Ulster you could possibly have to win four.

"The amount of teams in Division 1 in Ulster, compared to the amount of teams in Division 1 in other provinces, it doesn't (equate). It isn't really fair and that's why I'd have liked to move away from it and open the thing up and go for an open draw across Ireland."

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GAA Director of Player, Club and Games Administration Feargal McGill said there were two reasons why they didn't go with the open draw.

He said the current model guarantees that four counties will finish the Championship with silverware, compared to just one under the open draw.

And he also claimed it would do nothing to solve the problem of lopsided fixtures and 'in fact might add to it'.

"The best teams will always come to the top anyway, the best team will win it," countered Tally. "I don't think there should have been any fear from the GAA to go for that this year.

"Maybe they had their reasons, I think probably a lot of that might have been purely administration, let the provincial councils look after their own competitions, from a planning and organisation point of view and maybe getting venues organised and that.

"And at the same time, I don't want to be too hard on them because if you'd asked me about this six weeks ago, I'd have took the arm off you for it because we didn't think we were going to get any football so now we just have to settle for it and get on with it."

Tally also spoke on the feature length episode about his time with Galway. He was credited with shaping the counter-attacking style that helped them to claim the 2018 Connacht title.

"It's probably an easier way of life down there," said Tally of Galway. "They're relaxed, they really, really enjoy their sport but it's much more relaxed in the way they approach things, which isn't a bad thing either, to see that side of things, because I think we're very intense up here.

"I think in Ulster generally it's very, very intense. Sometimes just by having that more relaxed attitude you can see things a little clearer. Because I wasn't really on the sideline with that team - most of my work was done in the stand, feeding information down onto the ground - it was a different environment and you see things differently. Some of the things I definitely will run with our team."

* The full interview with Paddy Tally and back catalogue of episodes can be accessed on the Load of Balls talk show YouTube channel.

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