# rethink
'Playing the likes of Dublin and seeing what happened to Leitrim doesn't help things'
Longford’s Mickey Quinn says that the provincial championships need to be changed.

LONGFORD FOOTBALLER MICKEY Quinn believes that separating the provincial competition from the All-Ireland championship is a possible solution for addressing inequalities in inter-county football.

michael-quinn-and-seanie-bambrick Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Mickey Quinn in action against Carlow earlier this summer. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The early stages of the provincial competitions have produced a series of one-sided results, with Leitrim, Sligo and Clare all suffering big defeats. Quinn’s Longford also exited the championship after a 22-point defeat to Meath earlier this month.

The outcome of these fixtures sparked another round of discussions on various platforms regarding the health of the provincial tournaments and how they serve the needs of teams in the lower divisions.

Two proposals will go before Special Congress later this year. One aims to retain the provincial championship in a reshaped format to have four groups of eight. Some counties in Leinster would compete in Munster and Connacht while one Ulster side would also switch to Connacht.

Each province would consist of two groups of four to play in a round-robin phase and the winner of each group progresses to their relevant provincial final.

The second proposal would see the provincial championships move to an earlier stage of the year while the National League would essentially merge with the All-Ireland championship in the summer months. Each team plays seven games in their divisions which then filters into an All-Ireland series.

“I do like the idea of it being a separate competition,” Quinn tells The42 as he suggests that the second proposal could be a consideration for revamping the provinces. 

“There’s big opposition to that and probably listening to Jim McGuinness and Peter Canvan talking about it over the weekend, there’s big opposition to that. But looking at that, Ulster is the most competitive province at the moment.

“Every other province seems to be struggling or you could pick your top two teams straight away. I think having it separate could promote and help design a better championship going forward but I don’t think that’s going to be on the table for a while yet.”

While Quinn’s Longford have recorded some impressive wins in the championship over the years, they’ve also been on the receiving end of some heavy defeats in Leinster. 

Dublin inflicted big hammerings on them in 2015 and 2018 while the loss to Meath last weekend brought a disappointing end to their championship campaign. It also marked the end of Pádraic Davis’ time in charge of Longford after three years at the helm.

After seeing the 5-20 to 0-11 result that played out between Leitrim and Mayo on Sunday, Quinn can see how a young player might feel disillusioned about playing for their county in the future.

“Definitely. We’ve a crop of U20s and they’re a really good group. They were beaten on penalties against Westmeath but I would have eight or nine of them in St Mel’s [college] and they’re good lads.

“The test for the likes of Longford is what kind of programme or set-up can be put in place to carry those U20s through and play on the senior team. There probably should be a target of getting X amount of players to play senior inter-county football for Longford.

“If you go back in five years time and see how many of them [breakthrough], it’s going to be a lot fewer than you’d like which is being realistic about it. It’s really disappointing.

“But it does play a part. The likes of ourselves losing to Meath by 22 points. We’re sick enough about it and it’s something (where) we probably underperformed on the day. But that, and playing the likes of Dublin and seeing what happened to Leitrim doesn’t help things.

“So, I think there’s a lot of work and things to do in order to get players that are willing and interested to put in the effort. There’s no point in making the effort and sacrifice, what have you to stand for afterwards? That’s kind of the approach from those young lads.”

The Tailteann Cup, a second-tier football competition, was shelved for the second year-in-a-row in 2021 on account of the pandemic. 

Quinn accepts that this was an understandable decision for the GAA to take given the circumstances, but feels that the introduction of such a tournament is necessary to give teams a fair opportunity to contest for silverware.

“The idea of a second tier competition [is to be] in with a realistic shout of winning something. I think we’re very disillusioned by the fact that every team should get a chance of running or playing for Sam Maguire. And fair enough, I can see that side of things, but realistically, none of those Division 3 teams are going to go on and win it.

“When there’s a system in place that you build towards and you earn your right to play in the Sam Maguire competition, I think there’s a lot more pros. I think people get caught up in the smaller side of things and not the long term view of progress over three or five-year periods makes more sense for counties rather than, ‘Oh, we want to be in the Sam Maguire next year.’”

michael-quinn-with-his-daughter-alice-quinn Ken Sutton / INPHO Quinn pictured with his daughter Alice. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

Quinn returned to the Longford panel this year after stepping away last October. He said at the time that his “priorities had changed slightly” following the birth of his daughter Alice with his wife Kate. News of his departure also followed a turbulent time with his club Killoe, who won an appeal with the DRA to overturn a 48-week ban.

He helped his county avoid relegation from Division 3 after an emphatic win over Tipperary in play-off battle at home, while also picking up a convincing victory against Carlow in their Leinster opener.

“No more than what I was saying in the reason why you play, for me, it’s playing for my family and friends that they can enjoy going to games and coming back, sitting down round the table for dinner and chatting about the game.

“Even coming away from that Meath game was disappointing. You’re walking off the pitch to your family that’s there watching you and they go through it as much as you do. I think that’s something that has hit home for me and one of the reasons I’ll continue playing for as long as I can, because it gives you an appreciation for everyone else around you and that you’re just hanging on for those great days.

“To get Kate and Alice to some of the games this year was massive for me and massive for them. It’s something in 10, 20 years time that you can look back on and you’ll remember it. That’s as good as lifting a cup.”

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