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Declan Bogue: Teams like Fermanagh must view the Tailteann Cup as a springboard

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Fermanagh's Kieran Donnelly takes on Tyrone ace Conor Gormley in the 2003 All-Ireland quarter-final

Fermanagh's Kieran Donnelly takes on Tyrone ace Conor Gormley in the 2003 All-Ireland quarter-final

INPHO

Fermanagh's Kieran Donnelly takes on Tyrone ace Conor Gormley in the 2003 All-Ireland quarter-final

Forget the sound of the cuckoo, it is the theme tune of The Sunday Game that ushers in the summer for many.

And when Jägerlatein, James Last’s composition, sounded at the weekend, it felt oddly out of place coming as it did on Easter Sunday. No matter, we’re still happy to see it back.

That was until host Des Cahill began his preamble and committed the first irritation of the summer.

“We had eight games, across both codes,” he said.

Eight games.

Never mind that there were 12 other games across the Joe McDonagh, Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups. For The Sunday Game, only the elite teams matter.

The weekend before last, I attended the Nicky Rackard Cup game between Fermanagh and Donegal. The match was down to be played at Brewster Park, but was moved to Maguiresbridge — a venue and a club that have done their bit to accommodate hurling , but still it left the parent of one player sitting on the sideline of the pitch in his wheelchair. That wouldn’t have been an issue in Brewster Park.

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It should be noted that the game, the skills on show and the competitive nature were excellent. It remains a stain on the conscious of county boards that they cannot attract more floating GAA fans in to watch their own county team.

Players at this level have grown accustomed to the lack of coverage and promotion for their competitions. They are trapped in a Stockholm Syndrome and just accept it now.

Which is why everyone involved with a county football team that is likely to feature in the Tailteann Cup this season needs to make peace with one thing before they get going; forget about how it is promoted and what significance or respect is afforded to it, and just use it for your own ends.

Loose promises from the GAA to ensure coverage for the Tailteann Cup are so vague that they are laughable. The truth is that no commercial enterprise such as a newspaper or radio station has an obligation to promote games further down the sporting ladder.

Where exactly, in any sport all over the world, does this differ?

On Saturday evening, Fermanagh football manager Kieran Donnelly, in that characteristically upbeat and positive way of his, said that he would look forward to the Tailteann Cup, and his hope would be that it is sufficiently promoted.

It’s time we embrace tiers of competition.

In club action, each level is taken on its merits.

Back in February, I was lucky enough to be present at the Lory Meagher medal presentation for the Fermanagh hurlers.

Antrim’s Neil McManus was the guest of honour and spoke about just giving yourself over to the thing that you feel most passion for.

Erne manager Joe Baldwin spoke about how much the group had come to mean to this man from Kilkeel, who now commutes from Coleraine to training, and about how much was to come from those in the room.

Donnelly knows more than most about how a tiered competition can help a manager who is new into the job.

He himself was a teenage wing forward on the Fermanagh team that won the All-Ireland B in December 1996.

That was the first act of then manager, the late Pat King. The following summer, they forced eventual Ulster champions Cavan to a replay.

By the end of King’s tenure, they brought reigning Ulster champions Armagh to a replay in the provincial semi-final. Some of that team were still on the go when they reached the 2003 All-Ireland quarter-final and 2004 All-Ireland semi-final and replay.

Donnelly was still there in the panel.

But it all came from the springboard of an All-Ireland B final that was a complete afterthought in the calendar, the replay taking place on December 8, tucked away in the armpit of the island in Carrick-on-Shannon — as delightful a stadium as it is now.

No promotion. No television cameras. Some newspaper coverage, but it was a quiet time of year.

If any team have ambitions of furthering their development, the Tailteann Cup represents another six weeks of being in a team bubble, maintaining their strength and conditioning programmes and working on their strategy.

If any team decides to turn their nose up at that, then they will deserve exactly what they get.

Nothing.


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