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'They want big days in Croke Park. They want TV audiences. I don't think people are listening anyway to grassroots.'

Despite Carlow’s progress, their manager has concerns over the direction the game is heading.

Carlow football manager Turlough O'Brien.
Carlow football manager Turlough O'Brien.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

EVEN DESPITE THE progress of lower division counties in this summer’s football championship, Carlow boss Turlough O’Brien does not feel it will quell the talk about introducing a tiered structure to split the current format.

Division 3 sides Fermanagh and Longford have progressed to the Ulster final and Leinster semi-final respectively in recent weeks.

While O’Brien’s Carlow side are also contesting the Leinster last four, where they will take on another side from this spring’s Division 4 campaign in Laois, next Sunday in Croke Park.

Despite the major strides made by Carlow, O’Brien feels the focus still remains on the elite counties and continues to have reservations about the Super 8s.

“I don’t think it’ll ever end because there’s people driving this notion because they want the top eight teams playing all the time.

“They want big days in Croke Park. They want TV audiences. That’s what’s driving it. I don’t think people are listening to grassroots.

“I think we’ve seen the way the TV coverage has been allocated. Super 8s is getting all the coverage. I think it’s very disappointing the provincial championships have been ignored. The football championships have been ignored. I think it’s a terrible disservice to all those counties.

“The counties with very strong panels have a huge advantage. Over those games because you’re going to pick up injuries, you’re going to pick up suspensions, by the time the third game comes around, these guys have a massive advantage.”

Turlough O'Brien, gathers his team on the pitch at half time Turlough O'Brien with his players at half-time of their match against Carlow. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

O’Brien is not sure is a greater volume of games the solution to the problems in Gaelic football. Instead he wonders if running the league off concurrently with the championship would be beneficial.

“I think they (players_ want games at the right time of the year. I have toyed with a lot of ideas about restructuring championships and I sent a few to Croke Park over the years, kind of based around Champions League style football and all that. Then the more I think about, I say to myself, where are we going to fit our clubs into it?

“They’re not divorced from the clubs. People have this image maybe of inter-county players kind of getting losing the run of themselves, they’re superstars of the game, most of them want to play for their clubs as well.

“Managers will say the league doesn’t really matter, it does matter, it matters to everybody. It’s a great competition. The big problem with the league is the weather and with maybe global warming now, it has been the worst winter I’ve ever trained a team in anyway, I can tell you that.

“Say you’ve two rounds of the league and you’ve a knockout championship game in the middle of it. Jaysus lads, I tell you it’d focus the minds big time. Your league form is very important to you now, so it is. You don’t need challenge games. I think it would be brilliant. I think it’d be fantastic.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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