GAA Football

Splitting championship makes "practical sense" believes Tally

Down manager Paddy Tally estimates he spends between 40 and 50 hours a week on Down footballers.

PADDY Tally is hardly a stranger to the circuit but his previous roles in Tyrone, Derry, Down and Galway were as coach, where less responsibility exists.

Tyrone were winning All-Irelands when he was there. Derry reached a Division One final when he was under Brian McIver in 2014, while Galway did the same last year as well as the last four in the All-Ireland series.

In the previous existence in the Mourne county, they reached the All-Ireland final in 2010, when he was on the line with James McCartan and McIver.

This is, however, something of a different world, one where defeat to Louth cost them a step out of Division Three.

It might not be all it costs them. If John Horan has his way, this time next year the All-Ireland series will have been split in half.

Missing out on promotion was a sore enough slap at the time, but they could still be left the bruises next term if it transpires that it prevented them stepping over the threshold for the top tier.

Not that Tally is against the idea. In his eyes, splitting the championship up “makes practical sense”.

“I think the most important thing for players is to be playing football and developing. I’m not against a tiered championship.

“If you look at the way things have gone, the All-Ireland winners are nearly all coming from Division One. Not only that, it’s been nailed down to very few teams that have won it over the last 20 years, it’s only a handful, and generally all those teams were playing their football in Division One.

“It’s getting harder and harder for teams even in Division Two to win an All-Ireland title, so it makes sense that there has to be something else there.

“I think you have to have your provincial championships that everybody has a chance to win it, and that if you do there’s a way to be in the top tier.

“But it would leave it that when you’re playing league football, if it’s going to be tiered with Division One and Two together, the competition to get to Division Two will be greater, and the teams there will be working a lot harder to stay in it and not go out of the top tier the following year.

“I think it’s a natural progression, one of these things that the GAA has to try to encourage development across the board. Maybe this is one way of doing it.”

He took his charges down the country to face Galway for a challenge game last week but the Tribesmen were just too far down the road in so many ways.

One of the most sizeable gaps between the top sides and the rest is in terms of their physicality, yet Tally feels that ability has to be the first prerequisite for any team long before conditioning comes into it.

“If you’re starting on the grounds of conditioning being the reason these teams are so successful, I think it’s wrong.

“First of all, you have to have the quality of players. Maybe the structures in some counties are better at identifying players at an earlier age and bringing them through, so that by the time they’re in their early 20s they’ll have six or seven years’ work done in terms of learning and training age.

“Some of these counties are maybe more proactive, and that goes right down to the clubs and schools and all that’s being done at that level, so that really when the player comes out of under-20s he has a fair bit of training done and the transition into seniors is a lot quicker. That may be a part of it.

“It does take a senior player in his first year at county level, no matter how big and how strong you are, to get to the game. It’s not about being strong and physically conditioned.

“It does help, surely, it gets you round to the rigours and physicality of the game. But in terms of gameplay, understanding and awareness, that does take a bit of time, and getting the experience.

“There’s a correlation and conditioning is a big advantage, but it might just be as much down to the quality of the players themselves. You’ll find if a real good squad of players through at the right time and they get everything else right, they won’t be far away.”

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