Carlow win over Tipp not a shock, and support for a Tailteann Cup with no link to Sam Maguire

Former Carlow footballer Daniel St Ledger says that his county are embracing the opportunities involved with a second-tier competition.

FORMER CARLOW FOOTBALLER Daniel St Ledger says he wasn’t shocked to see his county get the better of Tipperary to ensure their progression in the inaugural Tailteann Cup.

carlow-applaud-fans-after-the-game Carlow players applaud their fans after defeating Tipperary. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Carlow, who had a poor Division 4 campaign and a dismal showing in the Leinster SFC, revived their season with a brilliant victory over the 2020 Munster champions last weekend. That result sees them progress to the quarter-finals of the second tier competition this weekend against Westmeath, and brings them one step closer to a Croke Park final in July.

The winner will then be assured of a spot in next year’s Sam Maguire competition.

A Tipp victory was the predicted outcome for that meeting at Netwatch Cullen Park, but St Ledger was not surprised by Carlow’s resolve in the face of doubt.

“At the end of the day, you’ve two Division 4 teams playing each other,” St Ledger, who retired from inter-county football in 2020, tells The42.

“I thought you might see a couple of surprises in the Tailteann Cup because it depends on how teams view it, and how seriously they take it.

“Carlow were full value for their victory and they controlled fairly decent proportions of the play. So, it wasn’t a massive surprise. They’re a young team, there’s been a huge amount of transition as has been fairly well noted. But it was great to see some of the younger guys getting trust shown in them.”

The Carlow team that St Ledger played for captured the imagination of the public. In 2017, they showed themselves to be an emerging outfit after stunning Wexford in the Leinster championship before providing stiff opposition for Dublin in the quarter-finals. They made history in 2018 as they ended a 33-year wait for promotion in the league, and later reached the provincial semi-finals.

Their impressive rate of progress was punctuated by the #carlowrising movement.

“The ascendancy was kind of quick,” St Ledger recalls, “and it kind of snowballed fairly rapidly. Unfortunately, it was never going to be easy to sustain that, especially given the age profile of the team. It’s been a tough road for the last while, just based on that transition and it’s very hard because we had a group that consistently played more or less for five or six years together.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of room for blooding 18, 19 or 20-year-olds into that established set-up. So, there was always going to be a period of time where it was going to be a little bit rough. I think the packaging and the setting of the Tailteann Cup isn’t about the importance of Sunday, it’s about the importance of keeping those young lads playing and getting as many games as possible.

“It’s a very positive thing to get a win in the Tailteann Cup, and it was very positive to see that they rallied after the league because it probably would have been easy to throw in the towel and go back to the clubs.”

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daniel-st-ledger Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Previously, Carlow was one of the counties who expressed their objection to any proposal of a second-tier competition coming into football. But with one round of Tailteann Cup games already played, the general consensus is that this could be a productive addition to the football championship. St Ledger can see that Carlow are embracing the opportunities involved in the Tailteann Cup, but also suggests that some further tweaking could be applied to make the competition more successful in the long run.

“I still don’t like the idea of playing a league twice. I know Turlough O’Brien used to have massive objections to it and I wasn’t overly fond of it myself, but the idea of playing a league twice was never ideal. That’s kind of the way it’s worked out this year with the Tailteann Cup because it’s been done divisionally and you’re playing a lot of similar teams.

“Maybe next year, when it’s a round-robin [competition] and it’s a proper draw, it might improve things overall. It’s an interesting one and I heard Billy O’Loughlin, the Longford manager, talking about not entering the Leinster tournament at all next year.

“It’s probably a radical move, and as a player, I probably would have been against it. But sitting back and looking at it now, it mightn’t be the end of the world if the Tailteann Cup was your only competition post-league.

“It might give it a little extra credence. I can imagine every player wants to have their full championship day, but for the sake of the competition, maybe it’s not the worst idea in the world but it’s easier for me to say that. As a player, I’d have been fuming if anyone said that to me.”

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