Not enough thought went into Tailteann Cup format: Antrim's Mick McCann
ANTRIM senior footballer Michael McCann has criticised the GAA for their deeply flawed approach to the inaugural Tailteann Cup and says the Association missed a trick by not copying hurling’s Joe McDonagh Cup round robin format.
With the promise of just one Championship game for the Tailteann Cup participants and no wild card entry back into the Sam Maguire race for the winners of the new competition, McCann believes the GAA are potentially harming the development of the lower-ranked teams in the country.
However, despite the Tailteann Cup’s many flaws, McCann at no time considered walking away from Antrim after they crashed out of the Ulster Championship to Cavan on April 23 - and says Enda McGinley’s squad will be fully prepared for their tie with Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday May 28.
“The two finalists of the Joe McDonagh get back into the Liam MacCarthy this year,” McCann said.
“I actually believe the Tailteann Cup would be a worthwhile competition based on the format of the Joe McDonagh, I think it would be great and every lower-ranked team would benefit.
“You could have four or five Championship matches, there’d be a bit of an incentive and you’d have a wild card entry into the Sam Maguire and everybody would look forward to it.
“But the problem you have is you are in a competition where you’re guaranteed one game, you could be knocked out and it doesn’t develop a team at all.”
The Antrim footballers have had to wait five weeks between their provincial exit and their Tailteann Cup debut while the county’s hurlers will have played four Championship games in the Joe McDonagh Cup within that same period.
“You’re waiting too long for a game. And you’ll get players thinking: ‘Am I going to hang about for one game? Or will I go to America?’
“So what you’re effectively doing is you’re making the lower-ranked teams even weaker because they run the risk of losing players.
“And to split the Tailteann Cup into north-south sections, I don’t understand that. So you might have all the better teams in one section knocking each other out and it means the competition is lopsided. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Clearly, county managers are in an unenviable position of trying to accentuate the positives of the Tailteann Cup but the vibes emanating from the Antrim camp are very upbeat about their trip to Carrick-on-Shannon - a game that will be shown on GAAGO - and trying to establish some momentum before the end of the inter-county season.
“At the end of the day, I think managers would really have looked forward to a round robin series,” McCann added.
“I can tell you Enda [McGinley] and Stevie [O’Neill] are taking this very seriously. We’ve had meetings, we’ve talked about it. We are all in it and we will see how we get on. The incentive is let’s try and get more games and develop as a team, but the incentive should always be more than that.”
Now 36, McCann is the last surviving member of the Antrim team that won the Tommy Murphy Cup in 2008. While it was another derided All-Ireland ‘B’ competition, the Cargin man saw merit in it because a year later the Saffrons reached an Ulster final.
“I love playing county football even when you’re juggling a lot of things, but if you’re going to put in six or seven weeks of training, it’s not really going to benefit me at the stage of my career.
“But I’m happy to help the team. I wouldn’t have walked away from it anyway. Other players have and they have their reasons – it happens in every county and I get that.
“I just fail to see the difference in this and a first round Qualifier because you’re probably going to be drawn against the same pool of teams anyway. A Joe McDonagh format would have been perfect and a pathway back into the Sam Maguire.
“I just don’t think it’s fair and not enough thought went into it to get it right.”
Antrim are still licking their wounds from their chastening Ulster Championship defeat to Cavan at Corrigan Park last month.
On reflection, McCann, who was harshly sent off in the second half of the game, felt missing out on back-to-back promotions was a body blow to morale before stepping into the Championship arena a few weeks later.
“We got off to a terrible start against Cavan,” he said.
“We were really good in the League – we had a couple of bad moments – but missing out on promotion hurt us I think.
“We really wanted promotion. We didn’t play anywhere near what we’re capable of against Cavan. That’s the killer, that’s what hurts us most to be honest.”