Two Tier All Ireland Championship will drive players away warns Derry County Secretary

Derry County Secretary, Sean Keane (right) with outgoing Chairman, Brian Smith, who stepped down at last nights County Convention in Owenbeg.
Derry County Secretary, Sean Keane (right) with outgoing Chairman, Brian Smith, who stepped down at last nights County Convention in Owenbeg.

Derry County Secretary, Sean Keane, has warned the new two tier All Ireland Championship will result in more county players spending their summers in the United States.

The Watty Graham’s club man was addressing last night’s County Convention where Stephen Barker was ratified as County Chairman and he took the opportunity to reiterate a concern he believes reflects a wider pessimism within the Oak Leaf county toward the new Championship structure.

The new format won three-quarters of the vote at Special Congress in October and means that teams who finish the incoming league campaign in Division Three and Four will not take part in the All-Ireland qualifiers unless they reach their provincial final. Instead, they will take part in an, as yet, unnamed secondary competition which will be played on a knockout basis and Mr. Keane believes that could hurt counties outside the top two divisions.

“A Special Congress was held in October to discuss a number of changes in the game and to decide on the way forward regarding the much debated two tier championship,” explained Mr. Keane.

“As per normal practice, all congress issues are put to the clubs prior to our delegates voting on any contentious issues. A high turnout of Derry clubs voted unanimously that the status quo should be maintained and gave a big thumbs down to the proposed two tier initiative.

“However, to my surprise the proposal went through Congress on a 75/25 vote. I, like many others in the County, feel that this is wrong and does not help Derry football in any way.

“Gone now is the opportunity to catch one of the big fish in the draw and with it the opportunity of causing a giant-killing surprise. A number of players from Derry have had, in the past, a tendency to visit the States after Derry are eliminated from the Ulster Championship every year to holiday, or play in the lucrative American championships. Players will no longer have the appetite for staying at home, awaiting draws for this two tier championship and, as a result, I feel that the numbers crossing the Atlantic will increase.”

New Derry manager Rory Gallagher starts his tenure as Oak Leaf boss seeking promotion from Division Three and Mr. Keane also used his address at the Convention to criticise media reporting around the former Fermanagh’s manager’s appointment last September.

“The media continues to play a key role in the coverage of our games and I would like to thank all of our local journalists for the effort they make to ensure that our games are covered to a high degree,” he explained.

“However I would be critical of the over zealous reporting of some of the off-the-field areas throughout the past months and, in particular, during the recruitment of our senior management. Before pen is put to paper there is a need for journalists to get clarification from County Management Committee on subject matter rather than printing information that may have been generated from outside discussions.

“In an effort to improve relationships I feel a meeting between local journalists and a County Board Management delegation is required to ensure harmony between both parties as we prepare for 2020.”

The county secretary welcomed an improvement in on-field discipline over the past 12 months but urged clubs without a referee to play their part.

“It’s pleasing to report that Referees Co-ordinator, Sean Curran, will remain in post for at least another season. Sean is a vital cog in a well oiled CCC setup and does a remarkable job in making referee arrangements for our games to be played weekly with limited resources.

“I would request all clubs without an official referee to get their house in order by recruiting an able official to take on this task in the coming season.

“It is also pleasing to note that discipline within the county has improved over the past 12 months – only two incidents of note had to be dealt with. That is still two too many and I would urge Club Chairmen and Secretaries ensure that this matter remains top of the agenda at the start of the new season.”

Mr Keane said 2019 had seen another rise in attendances at the Derry club championships and paid tribute to a number of individuals stepping down from roles including County PRO, Conor Nicholl, County Coaching Officer, Patsy Mullan, Director of Football, Brian McIver and outgoing Chairman, Brian Smith.

“Brian Smith has been one of the most dedicated Gaels in Derry for the past 20 years, having held coaching roles, referee’s co-ordinator posts etc, prior to taking on the role of Chairman which he carried out with pride,” added the County Secretary.

“He has a love for all that is good for the game and has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland to achieve anything that would better the game in his beloved county. I have spent much time with Brian in the past year as I got to grips with my secretarial post – it has been an eye opener and I can assure everyone that very few individuals would put in the effort that Brian has.

"I wish Brian many years of happiness and thank him sincerely for his efforts and no doubt he will be in attendance at Owenbeg and Celtic park as he continues to support his beloved county.”