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I'm not a big fan of the Tier Two format, says McDonnell

John Campbell

By John Campbell

The die is cast and now the face of the All-Ireland Football Championship will be changed forever - or so it seems.

Ahead of Saturday's Special Congress in Cork, the broad view was that the motion calling for a Tier Two All-Ireland Championship would not get the necessary two-thirds majority needed for what was a major game-changer.

But the speculation was somewhat wide of the mark on this occasion.

The proposal to have the Second Tier introduced was carried when 75.5% of delegates voted in favour of it - a majority that had not been thought conceivable in some quarters.

Over the course of the past 24 hours, players, officials and administrators up and down the island have been digesting what is viewed as a radical alteration to the All-Ireland football landscape.

We are all wise in hindsight, of course, and it now transpires that there was considerable opposition from several Ulster counties to the motion.

No great surprise there perhaps but as several Ulster county board officers, including Ciaran McCavana (Antrim), Tom Boyle (Fermanagh) and John Devenney (Down), made their counties' feelings known to Congress, there was a palpable air of unease.

But not to the extent that other delegates were persuaded to vote in a manner other than that in which they had been mandated. Several prominent personalities have indicated that the Tier Two format could impact on the players' commitment and make life harder for managers.

Armagh 2002 All-Ireland winner Steven McDonnell is among those who passionately believe that the Sam Maguire Cup should be the only prize on offer in an All-Ireland context.

"I have always held the belief that the Sam Maguire Cup is the ultimate trophy, it's the one all counties would like to win," insisted McDonnell. "Dublin may be ahead of the field at the present time but this does not mean that their dominance will last for ever.

"Of course a team wants to win its provincial title but this is seen as a stepping stone towards achieving the bigger goal. I would not be a fan of the Tier Two Football Championship. I firmly believe that every county should have the opportunity to challenge for the Sam Maguire Cup."

Congress also voted to adopt three new playing rules which will come into effect in 2020.

The introduction of the advanced mark was passed by 68.9%, the sin bin received 73.8% of the vote while kick-outs from the 20m line passed comfortably with 83.1%.

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