Louth's Jim McEneaney. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Louth forward Jim McEneaney has backed the idea of a tiered inter-county championship, but feels there is some way to go before it comes to fruition.
GAA President John Horan’s motion for a second level competition for so-called ‘weaker counties’ was supported by Central Council last month and Leitrim GAA are one such County Board to have recommended the proposal.
“If it’s structured properly and done well, I don’t see any harm in it,” McEneaney told The Democrat.
“If you don’t want to be in it, do well enough in the league or win it to get out of it.
“It works well at club level and I know people mightn’t think that it’s the same thing, but I won an intermediate championship with the club and it is one of my proudest achievements.
“Lee Keegan won an All-Ireland intermediate championship with his club (Westport) and it looked as important as, if not more important than, anything else he’d won - technically, that was a second tier competition.”
McEneaney, who is preparing for his eighth campaign with the Wee County seniors, and Derek Maguire, Louth’s GPA representatives, had their views taken at a recent meeting of the players’ body.
“The GPA’s point-of-view was: the GAA are pushing for a second tier championship and looking for a yes or no answer.
“We were saying that it would depend on what it is, which is the most important thing, because if it’s not structured properly, if there are no incentives for it to be worthwhile, I don’t think players will buy into it.
“The reaction to a second tier championship has softened a lot in the sense that lads from so called ‘weaker counties’ two or three years ago would have said ‘no way’. I think they’re more open to it now.
“There has been a couple of GPA surveys and focus groups among county panels and lads are giving their views on it in smaller scenarios. But you go to GAA Congress and you need a 66% majority to get something across the line. That support probably isn’t there at the moment for a second tier championship. Then you have teams like Dublin voting on it and it doesn’t matter. It’s completely pointless to them.
“It’s only an idea at the moment. There is no specific structure for it. We’ll have to see what the GAA come up with and then decide on it.”
Asked about the Louth squad’s views on a potential lower grade competition, which, based on their recent league and championship performances, would likely see the Reds among the demoted counties, the Geraldines man said: “I’d say some boys have thought about it more than others.
“Looking at Louth’s season next year, we’re not going to be saying: ‘we need to win the All-Ireland’. We’re going to be realistic about our targets and focus on Division Three.
“There is no point in pretending that we’re entering a competition that we think we can win.
“If there was a second tier competition, whether it got you back into the main competition if you were going well or if you won it and it was on the same day as the All-Ireland, I think it’s something that could work if it’s done properly.
“But, at the same GPA workshop, we were talking about club fixtures and the fixtures calendar. It’s going to have to fit into that too because lads don’t want to be dragging it. I know the Gers lads don’t want a ‘B’ competition to be dragging their club season out for another two or three months.”