‘The Provincial Championship? It’s like a dinosaur, there are only bones of it left’

‘The Provincial Championship? It’s like a dinosaur, there are only bones of it left’

Following the debates and arguments around Proposal B this week, you can easily be tricked into thinking that this is all heading one way.

The Gaelic Player’s Association came out last week in favour of it and put up a couple of articulate voices in Tom Parsons and Niall Morgan.

Timing is everything, and a week on after a deafening period of silence, GAA President Larry McCarthy and Director-General Tom Ryan gave it their backing, McCarthy stating, “I said at Congress that I thought we should be bold in terms of considering this report,” McCarthy said. “I repeated those sentiments last Saturday week on Raidio na Gaeltachta and that hasn’t changed. So I would like to see us being bold in terms of our adoption of this report.

“Do I have a preference? Yes, I think I would like to see Proposal B implemented.”

Within the inter-county managers WhatsApp group, the approval rating sits around 80%.

One of them is Kieran Donnelly, newly appointed Fermanagh manager.

For Donnelly starting off life in Division Three, the positives are multiple.

Kieran Donnelly playing in a 2003 qualifier for Fermanagh against Meath. Picture: INPHO/Andrew Paton

“The one thing that appeals to me is around the development of young players coming through some of the counties. You are guaranteeing them seven Championship games initially at the height of the summer, when the ground is dry and the weather is good,” he said.

“And then if you are good enough, especially in Division Three and Division Four if you top it, you have a chance to play the teams in Division Two to go through to the quarter-finals.

“From that point of view, you are playing teams at your own level, you have a chance then to develop because the games are competitive.

If you are good enough, you have a chance of a crack at an All-Ireland quarter-final.

He adds a small bit of caution with: “There’s no perfect solution but they have linked that if you are in the Tailteann Cup then the incentive is that if you win it, you gain promotion.

“I feel it ticks a lot of boxes and it gives a lot of counties hope. It is at a critical juncture that something has to be done and I feel it is the best proposal at the minute.”

In one way, this is a fascinating case study of where the power truly resides. Those that believe that managers rule the world are finding out that not to be the case. While Donnelly would have liked to have seen his county back the proposal, Fermanagh will be voting no to Proposals A and B as directed by their county board meeting on Wednesday night.

Having recently stepped down from his roles of managing in Cavan and latterly Leitrim, Terry Hyland has a certain freedom to express himself.

“In the GAA you always have two roads; you have the players, and management to a point. And then you have the committee side, the hierarchy and they don’t always travel the same road,” he reasons.

For the record, Hyland is in favour of Proposal B. He watched too many players heading off to America for the summer if they failed to build momentum through the National Leagues.

Former Leitrim Manager Terry Hyland. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

“I would have seen it, especially in the Division Threes and Fours, when the league is over, they feel, ‘well, that’s us over,’ because they were heading for a beating in the Provincial Championships. Lads would head back to their clubs or go away and do a little bit of travel.

“We have got so ultracompetitive in the GAA, we sometimes struggle to see this.”

His point is a wider one.

“I was thinking about this over the last few days and I wonder, ‘Was it ever an equal All-Ireland?’

“It probably was at the start when the clubs represented their counties. But then we got sexy in the GAA and we decided to form county panels and we even got better, forming collective training, and we went through all of that in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s and got very sophisticated.

“What happened then was emigration. The world opened up and the weaker counties, unfortunately, sent more of their people away and it had a bigger bearing on the weaker counties.

“So you look at it in balance and ask if it was ever a fair All-Ireland and I don’t think it was.”

Those sentiments would ring true for John ‘Jackson’ Kiely. He managed the Waterford footballers for five seasons up to 2009 and he never felt the system was geared up to develop his players.

“We used to have to play the McGrath Cup in January and the league started straight after that. And you were playing in all sorts of venues all over the place; Ballinamore above in Leitrim on a bad day, Milltown Malbay in Clare and you would be blown out of it,” he says, roaring laughing at the madness of it.

Unsurprisingly, he would be hitting the ‘Tá’ button if he was a delegate on Saturday.

“I would be all for the change, shake it up for the Championships. The Provincial Championships have been going for years and it is not working. And if something is not working, you m

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