Lacey: Don’t get rid of provincial campaigns

Footballer of the Year Karl Lacey last night urged the Football Review Committee (FRC) to protect the provincial championships when its members sit down to compile their second report early in the new year.

Part two of the FRC’s brief will deal with focus on championship structures, and proposals for alternative championship formats, including an open draw, are expected to figure.

The Donegal star, speaking at the launch of the Ulster Bank Ulster Vocational Schools campaign in Cookstown, said he was firmly opposed to any move to do away with the Ulster SFC.

“I would be totally against that, to be honest. I’m fortunate enough that I have two provincial medals in my hand,” he said.

“They have come just lately as well, and at the start of my career it was something I always dreamt of. I had to wait eight or nine years to get my first one, and I treasure it.

“To have that dream taken away from the young fellows that are now coming through development squads would be a shame.

“It’s always nice to be champion of your own province, and I’m lucky enough to have done that twice. Last year it was massive for us, and this year it was huge as well.”

Lacey is, however, open to change when it comes to proposals for the playing rules contained in the FRC report reduced earlier this week.

He feels the introduction of the mark could improve the game, but needs to be given longer in the experimentation scheme than it was allowed when previously on trial.

“I saw a stat that when the mark was introduced in the National League, I think it was in 2010, there were six more clean catches in the game, and it’s something that could be looked at. It works well in Aussie Rules and it works well in International Rules as well, with GAA players involved.

“It was tried out for a league campaign, but I think these things need to be tried out in championship, because that’s when the serious end of things start.”

With the Sam Maguire Cup firmly established in its new home in the hills of Donegal, the All-Ireland champions are finally ready to round off the celebrations and turn their attentions to next summer’s blockbuster Ulster Championship first-round clash with Tyrone.

“We had a hectic and enjoyable couple of months there after the All-Ireland, but now it’s time to refocus.

“It’s exciting, but it’s going to be a tester for us, and we’re looking forward to getting things going again, getting the focus, getting in a big National League, leading into championship come May.”

And having shipped heavy criticism for their defensive approach in 2011 before developing the system to stunning effect this year, Lacey is certain manager Jim McGuinness will have a further progression planned for 2013.

“You always have to develop and you always have to change. We had our critics big-time in 2011. It was Jim’s first year, he was in on a five-year plan.

“In fairness to him, he changed things up after he got us to an All-Ireland semi-final, and we worked on certain things this year. They worked for us and it brought a bit of success back to the county.

“Teams are copping on to what we’re doing now, and there’s going to be another change needed.

“I think every team in the country needs to do things new, change things up, freshen things up an bring new players in.

“And I’m sure Jim will try out a few things during the National League, and hopefully have something in place by summertime.”


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