Daniel St Ledger turned to referee Paddy Neilan late on Saturday evening and enquired how much was left on the watch. “12 minutes”, replied the Roscommon official. “It felt like an eternity,” the Carlow football captain admitted yesterday.
Carlow’s 17-point trouncing at the hands of Laois — 3-16 to 0-8 the final scoreline — wasn’t quite as traumatic as last summer’s 7-13 to 0-6 annihilation by Meath, but St Ledger says footballers donning the green, red and yellow are becoming all too familiar with such heavy beatings.
He doesn’t disagree with Tomás Ó Sé’s ‘men versus boys’ assessment of Saturday’s game and believes serious consideration must be given to proposals for a two-tier inter-county championship structure.
“If you have any pride as a footballer, you don’t want to be shipping beatings like the one on Saturday night. If I said I wasn’t embarrassed after it, I’d be lying,” remarked St Ledger.
“Unfortunately, it is something we have grown accustomed to. There have been some poor results, but it doesn’t get any easier.
“Saturday did us no good. Even if we pulled a shock result, you’d be facing Kildare in the next round and you’d have to pull a shock result again. It is almost a futile exercise. You question everything after a result like Saturday. You question your own skill level and you question why are you killing yourself for the last eight months.
“It is very tough when you are going out and there is such an enormous gap.”
Tomás Ó Sé, speaking on the Sunday Game, called for the bottom eight teams to be pooled into a separate competition where the winner is rewarded by gaining promotion to the All-Ireland championship proper.
“It would be great if they had a competition they could focus in on from the start of the year where they had a realistic chance of winning,” the former Kerry footballer said.
The Carlow centre-back is opposed to the introduction of a competition similar to the Tommy Murphy Cup and insists any B championship forthcoming must be marketed properly.
“The Tommy Murphy Cup was a bit of a disaster. It was treated as a throwaway competition to keep the Leinster teams happy. For it [a B championship] to work properly, it would have to be the only competition that we and teams similar to us would compete in.
“People following Carlow football don’t want to be going looking at 20-point beatings. At the very minimum, they want to see us being competitive.
“We need to be playing competitive games. Getting a hiding like the one we got on Saturday doesn’t do us any good. All the Division 4 teams are going to be up against it in their first championship game. Leitrim lost yesterday. Louth, who will be down with us next year, lost to Westmeath. That is going to continue. The majority of Division 4 teams will struggle and there are going to be a couple of more big beatings this summer.
“In spite of all this, I am confident all the lads will stick around and there will be no departures abroad before our first qualifier fixture.”
Carlow selector Tommy Wogan says their ambition must be to remain in the All-Ireland championship proper.
“Every county wants to play for the Sam Maguire. There is a gulf between us and the rest. Maybe a two-tiered system could be looked at for the weaker counties.
“As it stands, our ambition is to be in the draw for Sam Maguire. That is the ambition of every footballer growing up.”
He added: “We just don’t seem to be able to produce inter-county footballers to match other counties. Brendan Murphy is regarded as one of the top midfielders going, but one player won’t do it for you.”
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