by Paddy Hickey
Long-serving Clare footballer Gordon Kelly has pulled no punches in slamming the move to introduce a second-tier football championship to the inter-county calendar.
At last Saturday’s Central Council meeting, broad support was expressed for the introduction of a second-tier football championship, and it was agreed to discuss possible formats at the January meeting of the Council in order to allow a motion to proceed to Congress in February.
In addition, a second-tier championship is the stated aim of current GAA President John Horan during his three-year term, and the Gaelic Players’ Association has expressed strong backing for the holding of a secondary competition, voting 60 per cent in favour of the proposal.
But Kelly, who has been a defensive stalwart for the Banner County since making his debut in a challenge game against Carlow in December 2005, strongly argues that the introduction of a ‘B’ championship would serve very much as a backward step for the GAA.
“When the ‘B’ championship was tried out back in 2007 and 2008, it did an awful lot of damage to Clare football and I wouldn’t like to see that happening again in any county,” remarked Kelly on his views regarding the proposed change to the format of the competition.
“And I know what I am talking about as I was playing with Clare during those years, and so I had full experience of how the competition impacted adversely on the county team.
“During those two years, Division Four teams were not allowed to play in the qualifiers and so we found ourselves excluded from the All-Ireland Championship.
“As I see it, a second-tier championship would not address any of the fundamental problems that are in currently in existence, and why is there such a vast gap between the top teams and the teams that are at the other end of the scale.
“By this stage, I imagine there wouldn’t be many players still involved in inter-county football that were around in 2007 and 2008, and Gary Brennan and myself are the only current Clare players who had experience of playing in the Tommy Murphy Cup, as it was called.
“Of course, the second-tier championship wouldn’t impact Clare if we were still in Division Two where we are at the moment, but I would be very conscious of the damage it would do to the counties who would be forced to play in it,” added Kelly.
Meanwhile, the Banner County ace feels that Dr Crokes will make a strong bid for All-Ireland club honours in the wake of the experience of his St Joseph’s, Miltown-Malbay side in the Munster Club final on Sunday.
“I know all four provincial Club winners will fancy their chances of winning the All-Ireland, but I’d say that Crokes will be a tough nut to crack in the rest of the competition,” he remarked on his side’s 1-21 to 2-9 defeat by the Killarney outfit, at the Gaelic Grounds.
“Crokes were on a different level to what we had encountered in our previous matches this year, and it was always going to be a difficult struggle for us once they went nine points up after only about 12 minutes in the game.”