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GAA Football

GAA losing ground to rugby says Kieran McGeeney

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney believes the GAA is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the popularity of other sports

KIERAN McGeeney says the GAA is in danger of getting “caught sleeping one of these days” by other sports stealing the limelight and wants the number of National League games doubled.

The Armagh boss, who captained his county to their one All-Ireland success in 2002, would like to see pre-season competitions abolished in favour of a double-round league with home and away games against each opposition.

With Ireland’s rugby team having won an historic Grand Slam on St Patrick’s weekend, an event which contributed to the attendance at the All-Ireland club finals being halved from its’ decade-long average of around 30,000, McGeeney fears that the GAA will lose out.

“I think the GAA is losing ground big time on rugby and other sports,” he said.

“There seems to be an agenda against inter-county teams this past three or four years for some unknown reason.

“There’s probably a very small percentage of players that don’t like it but it’s fair to say the majority of players love playing for their county.

“There seems to be an agenda about over-training and stuff like that. I hate to buck the trend but I can’t see the over-training. I think training has got better compared to what we did.

“We used to have pre-season in September to start in October, then another pre-season in January to start in February, and then another pre-season in May to start in June. The training’s much more enjoyable now, it’s all football orientated.

“We’ve shortened the league down to nine weeks. If anything, I’d love to see the pre-cup competitions going and just play the leagues home and away, have 14 games on the trot and then go into championship.

“I think that would be more reflective of an intermediate or senior championship then, when you’ve 14 games. Teams might be a wee bit more open to it then, when they’re getting 14 league games every year.”

He feels that giving counties more high-profile games would have a double impact, in terms of redressing the training-to-match ratio while also staving off public interest in other major sports.

The Mullaghbawn native believes having a 14-round League campaign would be achievable in the window between January and April, and that counties may be more receptive to the championship being both split-up and shortened if they had the guarantee of more games.

“If you’re still down to six or seven, plus one or two maybe in a championship, then why go for a second tier?

“If you’re playing 14 games, you’re able to try different things and try players, and it’s not lengthening the inter-county season.

“It could be done in the same amount of time, but you’re just replacing games that are already there. It cuts down the training load because you can’t train when you’re playing week in, week out, as we know this year.

“There’s no hard training, it’s small-sided games at the very most in between games, trying to keep boys ticking over.

“The biggest thing for me is it would raise the profile of the game. I think we’re going to get caught sleeping one of these days.

“I love rugby and soccer as much as the next person, but we have our own games to promote, and the more games we have of a higher quality, the better.

“I think if you’re going to do a [tiered] championship, you have to do a wee bit of groundwork before it. It’s not just a matter of ‘right, everybody into a ‘B’ championship’.

“Give teams more games, give fellas a chance to settle into a good season that won’t interfere with the club. That way you can shorten the championship and it would be over at the end of July, and the clubs are happy too.

“We should be making more out of our players and giving them more high-profile games. I’d agree with what most of the experts would say – more games and less training,” said the Orchard boss.

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