Derry boss Cassidy in plea for equality
Be brave and make the change. That is Derry manager Damian Cassidy's call to GAA officials as he contemplated the annual imbalance of the championships ahead of next week's curtain-raiser in Celtic Park.
Cassidy, in his second year as Derry manager, has highlighted the inequity of the system once again and used the opportunity to encourage change to an open draw.
He has also defended the unique parochial feel to the Ulster Championship in the wake of such stern criticism of their Celtic Park quarter-final against Monaghan last year.
Cassidy is adamant the provincial councils must be “faced down” in an attempt to even the field across the country.
“The system has to be looked at. This is going on 100 years now and we have not had anybody with a bit of foresight to take hold of it, to show strong leadership to face down the provincial councils and make sure that the system that is put in place is equitable for all teams in the championship.
“That is not a dig at any particular team, it's sticking up for all of those teams who have to battle through blood and guts in football championship terms to get themselves into playing football at the end of June,” he said.
To win an Ulster title Derry will have to beat Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan or Fermanagh before they can even contemplate their opposition in the Ulster final. In contrast, All Ireland favourites Cork have just one game, against Kerry or Tipperary, to make the same stage in their province while Mayo's only barrier to a Connacht final is Sligo.
“What should be good for one should be good for all. That's the reality. It is not an equal system and we need someone to have the leadership to take all that on.
“The safety net (of the qualifiers) was designed to create money. Have a knock-out, open draw and let everybody go at it.
“You don't want to criticise teams that are involved in that particular passage and where it has brought them to but the system is still an unfair one and an unbalanced one, and until that is levelled out properly and everybody has the same opportunity from scratch, you can always point your finger at it and say it is unfair,” he said.
“If we get beaten on Sunday week for example, we are going to have to wait until July for the start of the qualifiers, while you will have other teams who will have met teams not of the same quality having reached their semi-final by mid June. It is clear that the system is not fair,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy is adamant that the Ulster Championship has been pilloried in the wrong and that last year's Celtic Park quarter-final was not the aberration it was claimed to be.
“I have yet to talk to anyone that was at that game in Celtic Park who did not enjoy that day,” he said.