The 2020 Munster senior football championship draw, which pits Cork against Kerry in a semi-final, could militate against the proposed second-tier championship at today’s Special Congress in Páírc Uí Chaoimh.
Officials believe if Division 3 Cork and their neighbours had been kept apart— and thereby improved Cork’s hopes of avoiding T2 —the chances of the motion being passed would be greater. There remains quiet confidence in Croke Park that it will be supported but the provincial draw has complicated matters.
The difficulty is Cork face a double jeopardy scenario —lose to Kerry and they could be consigned to the second tier in 2020 regardless of them being promoted from Division 3 next year. “It’s a fly in the ointment,” admitted one prominent GAA figure.
Cork, who haven’t confirmed what way they will vote today, are expected to oppose the motion. Kerry may do likewise in a show of support to their closest Munster SFC rivals. That would mean four of the six Munster counties - Limerick and Waterford, the exceptions - will vote against the proposal.
More are expected to join but as of now six counties have confirmed they will oppose the championship being split in two - Clare, Derry, Laois, Longford, Offaly and Tipperary. Fermanagh yesterday confirmed they are against T2 motion while Louth are set to back it. While appreciative of the need for a second tier, the Gaelic Players Association will also be registering their difficulties with this version.
As of Thursday, 12 counties have revealed they would be supporting the motion, which will also obviously garner the backing of Central Council and a number of former presidents are also expected to vote yes to it. There have been indications of support from international delegations too.
However, the idea of Cork being consigned to the second tier based on a vote on their home soil is a possibility. In the event the T2 proposal gets the required 60% support then Tipperary’s option - to give Cork and themselves as well as the other six Division 3 teams a chance to stay in the Sam Maguire Cup after the provincial competitions by being promoted to Division 2 next year- is likely to be backed.
Tipperary have highlighted the unfairness in the fact that they and Cork were relegated from Division 2 earlier this year without knowing it would have implications on their 2020 Championship campaigns. In requesting an opportunity to play their way out of the potential second-tier through the league in 2020, Tipperary have also highlighted the small margins that exist between teams in Division 2 and 3.
That option has already received the support of GAA president John Horan, who has insisted the would-be T2 will be given prominence via staging, marketing, an award scheme and the winners gaining automatic entry to the Sam Maguire Cup the following season as well as a holiday.
John Kennedy, who guided Clare to a Tommy Murphy Cup in 2004, is adamant the profile of the proposed competition will have to be excellent otherwise it will go the way of the Tommy Murphy Cup. “A second-tier needs to come in but how it’s going to be ran and the profile it gets will determine how successful it is. If it’s seen as a B competition, it’s a turn-off. You have to give counties that won’t win the Sam Maguire a realistic chance of winning something.
"But in saying that it almost has to have the same billing as the Sam Maguire Cup and that means media coverage and being in Croke Park on big days.
The players have to see that there is interest in it coming from the top of the GAA. Our final was in Croke Park against Sligo and it was high profile at the time but the interest waned because players realised it didn’t do much for them.
“Teams began to pull out then and that sends out the wrong message. The way it’s presented is going to decide how it will go and already we have seen a few counties who have said they would have reservations about playing in it, which is not good.”
A three-time All-Ireland winner with Kerry, Kennedy endorses Tipperary’s view the placings for the proposed second-tier should be decided next year as opposed to how Division 3 and 4 is made up now. A secondary competition is not the place for Cork, he argues.
“The League is so competitive now and Cork are down there because they didn’t win enough games and they were going through a patch when they were team-building. But is it a good system if Cork don’t to a Munster final and they go into a second tier championship? I don’t think it is.
“This secondary competition should be a development opportunity for the likes of the Leinster counties who can’t take on the Dubs and for those in Munster who are just a level below Kerry and Cork.”