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Comment: County game should learn from glory of Moy's All Ireland Intermediate success

By Declan Bogue

It was after Saturday's All-Ireland Club final victory over Michael Glavey's of Roscommon that Moy ace Sean Cavanagh, who won three Sam Maguires with his county, Tyrone - the last one coming a decade ago this year - got his wife and three children to pose for the ultimate family selfie with the silverware.

"My wife doesn't normally allow GAA memorabilia around the house but that one will be very special," he said.

"I'd been thinking about that (the picture) for a few days. Maybe that's it, maybe it's meant to be, that this is where it ends. It's a beautiful day."

In some ways, it is where it ends. Moy are unlikely to win another All-Ireland any time soon, with their progression to senior football coming this summer.

But in another sense, this is where it all begins as Cavanagh himself acknowledges that it's only been since he stepped away from the long-term marriage to the county game that he has begun an intense love affair with his club.

One point has been excluded up until now: it was an Intermediate final.

Does anyone care? Not in Moy, where the party is still making the rounds between The Ryandale, PB Lavery's and Tomney's Bar.

For those involved or those that go along regularly to watch club competitions as they reach their climax, there is a general acceptance that these are the most authentic tournaments in the GAA.

Not the biggest, which belong to the mass-appeal county games, but even to compare the two is to miss the point.

Before Christmas, former Armagh captain Jimmy Smyth reflected on his outrageously successful Clann na Gael side and how close they came to winning an All-Ireland title. They lost in the final to University College Dublin, who at the time were made up of an amalgamation of county players.

"The Club Championship is the best, by a mile. It is the competition that defines the GAA. The stories that have come out of it, there is a whole mystique about it," he said.

"I would have loved to have won the All-Ireland Club, that would have been a big, big thing."

In Jimmy's time, you could only aspire towards an All-Ireland if you were a senior club. It took until 2004 for the GAA to create a competition at Intermediate level - they were forced into it really, given an unofficial Junior competition was held in 2002 and 2003 until a motion at Congress gave the official stamp.

It was a simple move, but the rewards have been incredible. Clubs that nobody outside of the county environs would have heard of have become big news. There is gold to be found when we mine deep into the seams of the GAA.

In 2011, Lisnaskea Emmetts won the Intermediate title. Their captain Brian Óg Maguire would never have been forgotten for lifting the trophy on that day but when he died in an industrial accident the following year, that whole 12 months have taken on a sacredness within the club.

Tyrone's Derrytresk took a mad head stagger towards the final in 2012. They didn't manage to reach the decider in the end after all the suspensions arising out of their semi-final win over Dromid Pearses, but what a time to be alive for the Men of the Hill.

They got to play in Croker. What was once an exclusive members' club, with only a handful of games hosted every year for the few blessed with the fortune to have been born in a successful county, has been democratised.

"Karol McQuade, he's a couple of years older than me, he played me a pass in the first ever senior game I played in 1998 and I scored a goal. He came on there (in the All-Ireland Club final) with a couple of minutes to go. Things like that, you can't write the script," bubbled Cavanagh, reflecting on the Moy success.

That's why it is impossible to reconcile the success of graded competitions at club level, with the continual push-back from counties to adopt something similar in inter-county football.

Hurling has long since accepted that there are good teams, middling teams and developing teams.

For my tastes they have gone too far now with the establishment of the Joe McDonagh Cup, along with the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups.

But still, a cup is well received wherever it is toasted. Who can forget the reception the Down hurlers had in the Canal Court Hotel when they finally got their hands on the Christy Ring in 2013?

When Fermanagh won the Lory Meagher Cup in 2015, they paid tribute to their former team-mate Shane Mulholland, who died in a car crash earlier that year. The county board even hosted a lavish medal presentation with an MC, a band, green and white balloons on the tables - the works. How often has that happened for the hurlers of Fermanagh?

The truth is, for two-thirds of all football counties, their chief objective will either be achieved or failed by the end of next month.

And that's their own fault.

Belfast Telegraph

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