Leitrim star Emlyn Mulligan has stressed the need for a tiered All-Ireland football championship to make the game more appealing to players from developing counties.

Mulligan, who misses Sunday’s clash with London in Ruislip having incurred a third cruciate injury, says games between Division 4 teams like Leitrim and the Exiles are exciting because they are of similar strength and stature.

However, he argues the idea of a Division 4 side beating a top-flight one is a futile hope and it has to be realised in the structure of the championship.

“No more than Carlow playing Wexford last weekend, when you’re playing a team in the same division it gives players a lot more belief.

“We’re going over to London believing we can beat them and they’re the same.

“You’re putting pressure on yourself because you’re playing a team at the same level or around about the same level as yourselves.

“Obviously, you’re hoping to then play a Division 1 team in Roscommon but it’s only once in a blue moon that you might cause an upset against them. 

"And then you saw last week Monaghan in Division 1 beating Fermanagh in Division 2 by 10 points. You’d Mayo, probably still not firing on all cylinders, beating Sligo by nine points. Donegal against Antrim, another hammering.

“It’s hard for teams from Division 3 and 4 to be competing with teams from Division 1.

“I know players will turn around and say they’re happy to try and win that one game in 10 years and cause an upset.

“But I would be more motivated playing teams that I know my team is capable of beating as you would in Division 4.

“It makes things far more interesting rather than living in hope. You can tell yourself you can beat them but you have to be realistic.”

A return to the Tommy Murphy Cup format is not what Mulligan wants but a more promoted and worthwhile competition where it is run alongside the battle for the Sam Maguire Cup.

“You see a club team winning a junior A championship and see how much they enjoy winning that. The Tommy Murphy wasn’t the best and it nearly degraded the standard but you look at Leitrim beating Mayo in the Connacht junior championship last week. 

"Those lads were delighted to win it. If it was two or three tiers at inter-county level, then it’s up to you to push on. If you feel you’re too good then it’s up to you to show it. 

"Something has to be done but teams are being beaten and, fair enough, going into the qualifiers but they’re still not going to compete for the Sam Maguire.

“Something needs to be done to tie players here because they’re jumping on planes and heading to America at this time of year (after exiting the provincial Championship). I have done it myself and you can’t blame people because what else are they staying on for?

“You can’t expect the likes of lads from Antrim and Wexford to stay on now because there’s nothing for them. Maybe one win but I can’t see much use in that.”

Mulligan even questions the ability of Division 2 teams to take on those above them. 

“Even some of the Division 2 teams aren’t really contenders for the All-Ireland. Realistically, there are four contenders and the rest of us could be in the same championship while the others are getting stronger with each year and pulling away.”

Mulligan, who will still fly out to London on Saturday with Leitrim, has a consultation with knee specialist Dr Ray Moran tomorrow and is keeping a positive attitude despite another setback. 

The problem is with his left knee now having damaged his right the two previous times.

“I’ll be targeting to be back next March and playing against New York next May. It’s daunting when I say that but I’m in a good enough place mentally.

“I’m 29 years of age, 30 at the end of the year, but hopefully I can get back those years I missed in the latter end of my career.”


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