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McKaigue: we need level playing field, not an unfair tiered series

 

Hitting out: Chrissy McKaigue
Hitting out: Chrissy McKaigue
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Derry captain Chrissy McKaigue has voiced his opposition to the idea of tiered football Championships, at a time when influential voices within the GAA appear to be laying the groundwork for an 'Intermediate' type series.

After lifting the Division Four league title a couple of weeks ago after the Oak Leafs' victory over Leitrim in Croke Park, McKaigue said his belief is that 'lesser' counties should not be cut adrift, something he alluded to in his victory speech.

"My vision of the GAA wouldn't be tiered Championships, my vision of the GAA would be creating a system where every county has the same access to a similar level of resources," said McKaigue.

"That's a template in Australian sport, although obviously it is different because it is professional. In soccer, AFL, rugby league and I am pretty sure it is the same in rugby union, every team has some sort of salary cap. Every team is looked at in terms of the resources they can offer.

"What that makes for is a level playing field. Okay, you are always going to have your stronger clubs because they are run better and have a bigger supporter base and whatever else, but at the very minimum, if you are given a similar level of resources and a similar level of help and if you play your cards right, you will have at the very least a team that is able to compete."

McKaigue has played hurling at Christy Ring level and pointed out how tiered Championships have had a detrimental effect, highlighting that barely 200 people were in attendance for last year's semi-final against Kildare in Inniskeen.

"I have always seen it that way. I think there is a fairly strong precedent for the view that I hold," said Slaughtneil dual player McKaigue.

"If you look at the hurling Championships, you're telling me that the hurling Championships have made the weaker hurling counties stronger (his tone suggests it doesn't).

"You look at the Tommy Murphy Cup that has been tried… (it was a) dead duck.

"Nobody can come up with the comparison of the junior, intermediate and senior club systems. It is a totally different dynamic, a totally different world. The club system is different to the county system.

"At the bare minimum, I would have thought that each county, if they were able to have access to the same level of resources, that they could at the very least be competitive with each other."

McKaigue has reached the All-Ireland Senior Club hurling semi-final twice but no such pathway exists for him at county level. His frustrations led him to ask: "We don't even have enough hurling teams in the senior inter-county Championship to make a proper, proper competition. How many teams do you have? Ten? Maybe not even.

"You can't tell me we can't do better with that way.

"You look at the football Championship, it is arguably going in a similar direction. I don't think that is healthy for the whole organisation of the GAA. We want a healthy competition that is proper, you want a competition that gives every county a chance.

"You are telling me that a child growing up in a Division Four county at the minute, that the height of their aspirations is always going to be playing in a B Championship?

"I just don't for the life of me understand why we would want to be promoting that idea. And I think, with the greatest respect in the world, there is a distinct -almost - lack of respect to be saying that.

"Why should someone have to accept second best, or whatever else?

"I think that the hurling is the best example of what it is like at the minute. It is probably further down the line, because they have committed to the tiered Championship."

A number of commentators have suggested that proper marketing and an obligation to give sufficient coverage to a second-tier Championship would make it more attractive, but that is something McKaigue was quick to shoot down.

"How do you market that? I don't know. Maybe someone can come up with a reason," he added. "Maybe (GAA President) John Horan can say to me, 'This is how we are going to market this' and, 'This is how it is going to look'.

"I can't process it in my head. Maybe you can, but I can't."

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