But London boss Deely says championship changes don’t go far enough
By Damian Dolan
London senior football manager Ciaran Deely has given his backing to plans to revamp the championship structure, but says he would have liked the proposed changes to have gone further.
Two possible new structures have been put forward by the GAA and counties asked for their feedback – both proposals will result in at least one more championship game for London.
The proposals will be discussed further at the January meeting of Ard Chomhairle. If there is sufficient support for either proposal, a motion will be put to Congress in February.
The main difference between the two proposals on the table is whether or not teams get the chance to play in the provincial championships and the qualifiers, before entry into a second-tier, or just the provincial championships before going straight into the second-tier competition.
The Irish World understands that London’s players prefer a second bite at the cherry in the qualifiers, before potentially going into a second-tier competition.
While Deely has always been a “big believer” in the need for structural change to assist the development of lower league sides, he’d prefer a format similar to the five separate tiers which make up the hurling championship.
“Personally, I would favour a completely separate tiered championship,” Deely told the Irish World.
“For me, that [the proposals] doesn’t go near far enough but it’s certainly a step along the lines of going into a tiered championship. I’d be in support of that.
“You could look at what’s been proposed as a few extra games. Whether players are in favour of a complete split between tier one and tier 2…..lots are and lots aren’t.”
Deely believes that the proposed changes will not rid the GAA of its current problem – the imbalance in the number of games teams are getting.
Since 2014, London has only played two championship games a year. Under the new proposals, the Exiles could get at least three championship games.
“All the players and I would say ‘brilliant, that’s what we want’ – we want more championship games, that’s the only way we can improve,” he said.
“If you think of the likes of Dublin, Kerry and Mayo, with the Super 8s they’re probably playing eight or nine championship games. We get two.
“Obviously that’s our own fault because we don’t win games, but if you want make things more equitable for the teams, then we need more matches against teams who are around our level or above. That’s how we’ll develop.
“If we end up with at minimum, another championship game, then that’s a positive. And if we can add another two or three then even better.
“Obviously you want to be back winning in the top tier…..but not everybody can be at that level all the time.
“Roscommon are paying out massive amounts of money because they’re trying to chase the teams ahead of then, and it’s just not sustainable.”
GAA president John Horan has openly thrown his weight behind a Tier Two Championship. When the idea was discussed at Central Council in September and a straw poll taken on the floor “every hand went up”.
“Everybody was of the view that it should happen,” said Horan, speaking at the time.
If Central Council is unanimously behind the idea then it could be introduced by 2020, with Horan also muting the idea of the second-tier final taking place as a curtain raiser for the All-Ireland final.
In October, Gaelic Players Association chief executive Paul Flynn confirmed that the majority of the organisation’s members were in favour of a two-tier championship.
In support, the GPA released figures that 60% of inter-county footballers now supported such a restructuring.
They also reported that 90% of hurlers were satisfied they had a sufficient number of games against teams of equal standard, while just 53% of footballers said the same.
Deely believes an extended run in a second-tier competition wouldn’t have a major impact upon the club scene in London, but a prolonged campaign for the Exiles could bring financial challenges not experienced since 2013 when Paul Coggins’ side reached the Connacht final.
London returned to training on 2 January after having training hubs in London, Down, Sligo and Tipperary over Christmas.
Deely’s 31-man panel includes just 14 of last year’s squad, making it the biggest turnover of players during his time in charge, since taking over from Coggins.
In his fourth year as London boss, Deely is just one of eight county managers still in their positions for four or more years – the others being Mickey Harte (Tyrone), Jim Gavin (Dublin), Malachy O’Rourke (Monaghan), Colm Collins (Clare), Turlough O’Brien (Carlow), Kieran McGeeney (Armagh) and Kevin Walsh (Galway).
London open their NFL Division 4 campaign against Limerick on 27 January at McGovern Park, Ruislip.