Two-tier championship the best way forward, says Westmeath’s Sayeh

Liberian born Westmeath footballer Boidu Sayeh during the O'Byrne Cup Round at Netwatch Cullen Park in Carlow. Credit: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile/PA Wire

Westmeath’s Boidu Sayeh believes a two-tier championship is a runner in Gaelic football, pointing to the “outrageous” set-up that Dublin have which keeps them “a step above everyone else”.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Leinster SFC clash with Laois, Sayeh is realistic about his side’s chances if they meet the All-Ireland champions down the line.

“Obviously, if you play Dublin you’re going to go out and try to beat them. But you know yourself going out that it’s probably not going to happen, that you’re not going to beat them because their set-up is outrageous and they’re a step above everyone else.

“There probably should be a second-tier competition for the championship as well. But it’s the way it is, the way it plays out, and there’s nothing you can really do about it, just try to catch up with them. That’s all you can do.”

The defender accepts it’d be “tricky” to isolate the teams who’d be in the top-tier of a two-speed championship.

“There’s probably about eight teams that are above the rest, above everyone else. It’s a tricky question, it’s hard to say that we could easily go out and beat Donegal but... I don’t know.

“All you can do is try to catch up with them really, if they make a second-tier thing it would be a great competition but I think a lot of counties would rather keep playing against the big teams and try to compete against the likes of Dublin, Donegal, Kerry and Mayo, even though they don’t have a chance (of winning). They’d still love to compete against them in the hope they might bridge the gap.”

The Super 8s are an aim for this year’s Westmeath side, he adds: “Yeah, that’s a huge ambition. I think it’s going to be one of our ambitions this year anyway.

Obviously, it’s going to be game-by-game but trying to make that Super 8s, like, Roscommon making it last year, Kildare making it, that kind of gives hope for some of the teams that aren’t considered to be up there to actually push on and get there.

“And it’s doable as well. I think that’s going to be one of our goals this year.”

Westmeath met up with Laois earlier this year in the Division 3 league final, but Sayeh doesn’t feel their opponents kept their cards close to the chest that day.

“I don’t think they held anything back. We tried to suss that out during the week or whatever.

“Obviously, we realised that (Donie) Kingston was going to be in at full-forward so we’d try to stop them kicking the ball in. We tried to narrow that down. In the second half they were doing it a bit more because we were under a lot more pressure but no, I think they threw everything they could at us that day.

“I think we just cut them off at source. Obviously, we were a little bit better on the day but come the championship it’s going to be who can suss each other out the best.”

The league final went Westmeath’s way and they’re hoping for a repeat of that result this weekend.

Obviously, when you have a winning mentality, you’re aiming to drive on more. Having won the Division Three was… we were hoping for that in the first place anyway.

“That was our goal at the start so we achieved that. Now it’s going to be, we just move on straight away from that. Obviously, we enjoyed it at the moment.” So were they keeping their cards close to their chest that day?

“Ah no, we obviously wanted to win the game. So did Laois, I’d say.

“We did throw everything at Laois on that day. Obviously, the lads are going to come up with something different (for the championship) but for that game, we definitely went full out just to win it. We didn’t hold anything back. We went for it.

“There’s only a kick of a ball between us anyway so it’s going to be probably the hardest game coming now in championship. Obviously, they’re going to suss us out and we have to suss them out as well but it’s 100% going to be our hardest game in the first round of the championship.”

It’s the first championship outing for new manager Jack Cooney as well this weekend.

“Jack knows all of us since we were little. He trained me when I was in minor and under-14s.

“He used to do training sessions with us, he used to come in so he knows all the players, he knows who he wants and who he doesn’t want and what kind of players he wants playing for him. Obviously, we want to play for him as well and it makes it even better that he’s a Westmeath man as well.”

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