Tier 2 championship plan gathers broad support

Tier 2 championship plan gathers broad support
Limerick GAA chairman John Cregan

Leitrim, Limerick, Sligo, Waterford, and Wicklow will support the creation of a second-tier football championship at Special Congress on October 19.

Following consultation with their respective senior teams and debate among club delegates, officials from the five counties have been mandated to back the Central Council motion to introduce a Tier 2 competition in 2020.

Wexford are another county expected to vote in favour of the proposed second-tier championship, with a high-ranking county board official admitting yesterday the mood among clubs is that Wexford should support the creation of an extra championship layer.

Offaly, who reached the last 16 of this year’s All-Ireland Championship, held a management committee meeting tonight to discuss what voting position they would adopt ahead of Special Congress. The Offaly County Board executive recently gauged the views of their senior footballers who made known their opposition to splitting the championship in half.

The Faithful County will begin 2020 in Division 3 of the Allianz League, but if a Tier 2 championship is voted through and involvement in such is decided by league placings at the beginning rather than the end of spring, John Maughan’s Offaly will then need to reach the Leinster final in 2020 to remain in the Sam Maguire Cup.

Longford are another Division 3 county who have yet to decide how they will vote at Páirc Uí Chaoimh the weekend after next. Soundings taken from the Longford players, by board members, however, found there is support within the panel for a second-tier competition, but much depends on how it is packaged.

Limerick County Board chairman John Cregan said the executive spoke with manager Billy Lee before deciding to support the Central Council motion. Lee told this paper back in May that Division 4 counties would continue to lose players every year unless a properly marketed second-tier championship was brought into existence.

The Treaty County will also back the introduction of the sin bin, advanced mark, and kick-out from the 20m line.

“We consulted Billy and we consulted the player reps,” explained Cregan.

One concern the player reps had was with regard to the suggestion that is out there that instead of an open draw in Tier 2, there will be a northern section, consisting of counties from the north, and a southern section, consisting of counties from the south or bottom half of the country. The players made it known they would much prefer an open draw.

Wicklow chairman Martin Fitzgerald is hopeful that Division 1 counties who are unlikely to ever be involved in the second tier will support its introduction.

“What chance have we got of winning an All-Ireland at the moment? We spoke with the players, and they are in favour of Tier 2. Once they got a chance to play in Leinster, they were happy. A second-tier competition provides greater motivation for players from counties in the lower divisions,” said Fitzgerald.

This was a sentiment shared by Sligo chairman Brendan Leonard.

“We are likely to play Galway in the Connacht semi-final next year. If we were to come up short there and subsequently draw a Division 1 county in the qualifiers, that could potentially be our summer over after two games.

Obviously, the motivation is to climb into the top half of the league so as to be involved in the All-Ireland Championship, but if the second-tier competition is there, it does offer the opportunity for an extended run through the summer.

Cork and Kerry will decide on the day as to how they vote, while Tipperary, although they have put forward an amendment in the event of the B championship motion being passed, will vote against the proposed second-tier championship.

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