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Murphy: No 'quick fix' to solve All-Ireland puzzle


By John Campbell

Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy robustly slams what he describes as "the quick-fix" solutions which currently appear to be emanating from all quarters in relation to the proposed re-structuring of the All-Ireland Football Championship.

While it is understood that formal proposals are being sought from all counties, Murphy believes that the problem confronting the Association goes much deeper than merely tinkering with the format of its flagship competition.

"The most important thing as I see it that must be addressed is - and this has been missed in all of the simple, quick-fix solutions that have been proffered - that you can't make, for example, Longford capable of beating Kerry simply by changing the structure of a competition," asserted Murphy.

"If the Association is to be seriously challenged in terms of improving the competitiveness of its mainstream championships, then we need to deal more effectively with the development of gaelic football in those counties which are falling short of a certain threshold."

Murphy, who has played a major role in nurturing the Ulster Championship to its present status as the highest-profile football competition, rubbishes the theory that progress in bringing teams that wallow in the slipstream of others up to the required standard can be made in the short term.

"This will not be done in a six-week or six-month period. We are looking at many years here and I will just cite the work that has been done in football terms by the counties in Ulster over the last 15 or 20 years to develop their under-age structures and improve their coaching standards," pointed out Murphy.

"This has successfully been done because top-quality players capable of performing to a high level on the national stage have been produced. If you try to find a speedy panacea for the current perceived ills within the sport, you end up only treating the symptoms rather than the disease itself.

"The disease at the minute is that we are not producing enough high-quality players in the weaker counties and we need to find a solution to that."

And Murphy pours cold water on the notion that the current make-up of the provincial championships is to blame for the imbalance in overall competitive levels.

"Counties who would aspire to improve their status must draw up a development plan and stick to it," insisted Murphy.

"That's the only way forward for them. If you go back to the 1950s, Down were seen as a joke and a laughing stock but visionaries like T P Murphy and Maurice Hayes set the ball in motion in terms of having a plan in operation and Down won the All-Ireland title in 1960 and 1961.

"Up until Tyrone won the Ulster Championship in 1957, only four counties- Cavan, Monaghan, Armagh and Antrim - had won the provincial series.

"Subsequent to that Tyrone, Derry and Down went on to win Ulster titles. Why did that happen? What T P Murphy and Maurice Hayes did was set in motion the circumstances which allowed players to be developed and realise their full potential.

"People forget, too, that Donegal had not won an Ulster title until 1972 and the county is a force at the minute because they decided 12 years ago that they weren't going to allow football to deteriorate there.

"They re-doubled their efforts with their minor, Under-21 and development squads and obviously the county's recent track record speaks for itself."

In urging counties to take stock of their resources in a bid to go forward, Murphy suggests that the progress made by Tipperary, Roscommon and Westmeath in particular should be viewed as a template for development.

"These are three counties that tackled coaching and preparation levels at the very grassroots and have made progress as a result of this," pointed out Murphy.

"If you want to raise the peak, then the first thing you must do is broaden the base. You cannot have a higher peak if you don't broaden your base and the perceived weaker counties must understand that is the case."

Murphy's views are endorsed by Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney, who believes that the All-Ireland Championship format is "a point of debate".

McGeeney, who is putting the final touches to his plans for Sunday's Ulster Championship meeting with Donegal, is in no doubt about the enormity of the challenge facing weaker counties.

"Those counties with bigger populations and better resources will always be seen to be at an advantage," maintained the Orchard County boss.

"But irrespective of this, organisation and development have a big part to play in how a county moves forward.

"Financing this is also a big challenge. It's hard to say what is right and what is wrong but you have to have things in order at grassroots level.

"The All-Ireland Championship, especially because of what is happening now in terms of results across other provinces, has to be considered a point of debate."

Belfast Telegraph

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