WITH the quality of teams now lining up to go through the football qualifier system — Derry, Donegal, Meath and Tyrone amongst them — some of managers will await the first-round draw next weekend with more anxiety than optimism.
And, while Luke Dempsey would never be one to shirk a challenge, the Longford manager is not excited about the prospects of his team being able to renew their challenge. The reason is quite straightforward — a lack of preparation.
By the time they get to play again, on July 19, 10 weeks will have elapsed since their Leinster championship dismissal at home by Westmeath.
You can understand why he would be so envious of a team like Fermanagh, who performed another giant-killing act in Healy Park on Saturday night when dumping favourites Derry out of the Ulster championship.
At the outset, Dempsey put forward a proposal to the County Board that the players would go back to the clubs for seven weeks and that he would have them for the last three, “which would mean two weekends prior to July 19.’’ That was agreed, but subsequently extra rounds of the county championship were added, the net result being that the county players will be involved with their clubs up to the first weekend in July.
The squad won’t resume until eight days before they will be fixed to play the first round of the qualifiers.
“It’s not a level playing pitch,’’ he argues. “I am not blaming the Longford County Board, it’s the system that needs to change. The provincial championships need to be streamlined.”
And he says that the GAA ‘hierarchy’ has a part to play. “I’d love to see them having an influence on county boards and saying that ‘what goes for one goes for them all!’
Criticising the decision (since reversed) to link the League with the championship status of counties in Division 4, he feels that the qualifier system ‘is a disaster for the weaker counties.’ “Now, it’s time for a different system to be brought forward.’’
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