Derry manager Rory Gallagher slams "crazy" new Championship proposals

Derry manager Rory Gallagher has strongly criticised proposals to revamp the GAA’s Provincial and All Ireland Championship structure, describing one to be debated at a Special Congress in Croke Park on October 23rd as “crazy”.
Derry manager Rory Gallagher. (Photo: George Sweeney)Derry manager Rory Gallagher. (Photo: George Sweeney)
Derry manager Rory Gallagher. (Photo: George Sweeney)

The Gaelic Players Association this week voiced strong support for ‘Proposal B’ which links the National Football League with the championship and retains the provincial championships as pre-season competitions. A 60% majority at Congress would be enough for either it or ‘Proposal A’, which advocates some Ulster and Leinster counties being transferred into Connacht or Munster, to pass but Gallagher said he didn’t believe either idea was the way forward.

“I’m not in favour of either of them, definitely not,” explained Gallagher, who was this week ratified as Derry manager until 2025, “I feel it would be wrong to - number one - do away with the provincial championships. I’m not so certain teams want to go, even if they lose the preliminary round in their own, into another Championship. I think you have to look at things in perspective, the Tailteann Cup has not even been trialled because of Covid.

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“People say there are hammerings in the championships at the moment but there are hammerings in every sport; there are hammerings in the Derry Senior football Championship, that’s just how it is. If the No. 1 ranked player in tennis plays the No. 16 ranked player he generally wins in straight sets. Likewise in snooker, likewise in darts, that’s the nature of sport.

“At the minute we have the National League which is a competition which provides teams with the vast majority of games against teams at their own level and, for me, you would be showing a lack of ambition if you didn’t at least play a team ranked above you then in a championship match.”

And despite this week’s GPA backing, Gallagher said he struggled to understand the logic of ‘Proposal B’, claiming it would punish teams for being doing well.

“The structure of the ‘B’ proposal is crazy,” explained the Derry boss, “You are actually punishing teams for being successful. The No. 6 ranked team in Division One would not make the All Ireland quarter-finals whereas the team ranked 23rd of 24th, top of Division Four, would potentially get that chance.

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“I think that’s an extremely unfair system and I don’t think there is another sport in the world which works like that. I know from my time in Donegal, in 2012 we finished sixth in Division One after we won our last league game and put Armagh down, but then we went on to win the All Ireland. That wouldn’t be possible in this system.

“Mayo wouldn’t have got to the All Ireland final in recent years; Monaghan, who have been one of the great success stories, frequently finish around sixth in Division One. I just think it is a crazy proposal.”

The Oak Leaf manager has been a keen spectator at many of the recent Derry Club championship matches but he revealed it is not necessarily new talent he is looking to run his eye over.

“I’ve been to quite a few games, almost every weekend there has been games on I’ve tried to take in a few,” he added, “We’ve seen a mixture of Intermediate and senior and people are always asking, did you spot any new talent but, hand on heart, I’m going to watch the players that we have and the younger players we have an eye on.

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“Yes, there has been one or two other players who have stepped up but the primary role for me is can I see a difference in a Derry county player and the general Derry club player and I can. Can some of those play better? They can, but I’m also looking at areas where we are trying to improve them individually and asking, are they bringing that to their club game? Are they being good leaders for their clubs?

“I have to say overall, although it is still early stages and we are only getting to the business end of things now, I am very pleased with it.”

On the decision to add another three years to his original three year post as Derry senior manager, Gallagher said he was anxious to continue the progress being made in the Oak Leaf county.

“The thing about GAA is, it’s not like soccer where you have binding contracts or anything but just chatting to the County Board Officers, to Stephen (Barker) and to the players about the direction we wanted to go, we felt we have been striving to get a consistency of squad, a consistency of panel and consistency of management and backroom team and we have that now so we just want to plough on and look forward to next season and hopefully a few more after that.