Former Antrim ace Kevin Brady "swayed" towards 'B' Championship
FORMER Antrim player Kevin Brady says it’s time the Senior Football Championship was broken up into tiers as the gulf between teams has become too wide.
Brady, who captained Antrim to the Tommy Murphy Cup in 2008, admitted he would never have been in favour of a ‘B’ Championship during his playing days but feels it is “time for change”.
The long-serving Moneyglass clubman, who managed St Mary’s Magherafelt to this year’s MacRory Cup, feels that most players could be persuaded to support a new ‘B’ Championship.
“I don’t know what the current crop of players thinks,” said Brady.
“Maybe some of them don’t want to come out and support a ‘B’ Championship.
“You have to think of players being asked to give up more of their time and maybe at the back of their heads they’re thinking: ‘This is all pointless,’ because the gulf is increasing.”
This summer’s Ulster Championship has already witnessed three landslide victories for Monaghan, Donegal and Tyrone while last Sunday’s clash between Down and Armagh was the first competitive tie to date.
“I’m starting to come around to the idea of a tiered Championship. I think that is the way forward. When it has been around for a few years I think players will feel there is something to play for, something tangible that they can win.
“In the past, you had Fermanagh getting to an All-Ireland semi-final [in 2004] and Tipperary getting to a semi-final [last year].
“Other teams would feel they’re on a par with those teams and might be thinking: ‘If they can do it, so can we.’
“At the tail end of my career a lot of players in the Antrim camp would have been against a ‘B’ Championship; there was this feeling that the players didn’t want to be in it.
“As time has gone on there are fewer and fewer teams that can actually win the All-Ireland Championship – so I think it is time for change.”
The short-lived Tommy Murphy Cup, which ran between 2004 and 2008, was an ill-conceived Championship model.
When Division Four teams exited their respective provincial Championships, they were routed away from the All-Ireland Qualifiers and into the Tommy Murphy Cup.
Some teams and scores of players refused to take part in the tournament.
Despite its misgivings, Brady has fond memories of being the last man to lift the trophy on the steps of the Hogan stand nine years ago.
“When I played they were different times and you always had the hope of getting to Croke Park. I obviously played in the Tommy Murphy Cup with Antrim and I’m sure people remember the whole backdrop to that when some players didn’t want to play in it, and didn’t play in it.
“That was their choice and it was their prerogative but I was made captain for the Tommy Murphy Cup. I knew the likes of St Gall’s were winning things and got to play in Croke Park, whereas I knew my own club probably couldn’t reach those heights and to get up the steps and lift a trophy at Croke.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget and I remember a year or two before me when the likes of Declan Brown [in 2005] went up and lifted the Tommy Murphy Cup. If it was good enough for a player of his quality, it was good enough for me.”
For Brady, a potential negative to a ‘B’ Championship would be players opting out.
But, given the right resources, format and promotion, Brady feels a tiered tournament would be the best way forward.
“If you knew you were in a ‘B’ Championship from the beginning – if that’s what the GAA’s plans were – I think players would be thinking that they would have a chance of winning it.
“At the minute, the smaller teams are thinking if they get one or two wins in the back door they’re eventually going to face a team that will beat them.”
Brady added: “I suppose you have to weigh up is an All-Ireland quarter-final appearance better than winning a ‘B’ Championship. That’s the crux of it.
“When I was playing I probably would have opted for an All-Ireland quarter-final because that’s where players see themselves. You are a county player and you feel you’re as good as anybody else… But now I would be swaying towards creating a ‘B’ Championship."