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Fermanagh give thumbs down to second-tier idea

 

By John Campbell

When the idea of a second-tier All-Ireland senior football championship was initially mooted, it was deemed to be nothing more than a flight of fancy.

After all, the Tommy Murphy Cup had offered a realistic chance of success to 'lesser' county teams, but hardly had it got off the ground than it was scrapped.

Now, though, there would appear to be a somewhat greater appetite for a second-tier formula, although the specifics of this have still to be established - if that stage is reached.

With Fermanagh the latest county to give a thumbs down to a second tier competition, there is a feeling that opinion may be evenly divided between those sides who are expected to be involved initially.

Rory Gallagher's side do not come into this bracket as they will ply their trade in Division Two next year along with Armagh who have also been promoted.

And, indeed, in the wake of stunning Ulster championship wins over the orchard county and eventual All-Ireland semi-finalists Monaghan in the summer the Erne men certainly could not be considered as genuine material for anything other than the All-Ireland championship proper.

Erne boss Gallagher is justifiably convinced his side can do even better in 2019.

As things stand the proposed second tier would be confined to teams from Divisions Three and Four of the Allianz League as they are currently constituted.

Thus, if there were to be a second tier All-Ireland championship next year it would mean that Down, Derry and Antrim would be the three Ulster counties in the mix.

Antrim manager Lenny Harbinson has already acknowledged that the second tier All-Ireland series might serve a useful purpose providing certain conditions are fulfilled, but new Down boss Paddy Tally is hardly likely to have a strong appetite for the concept in what will be his first season in charge of the Mournemen, especially as he played a big part in revitalising Galway this year.

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