IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN Crossmolina, the reigning Division 1 league champions, will have the likes of Ciaran McDonald, and all county players, available for their league games in 2007. However, they will not meet Breaffy this year in Division 1A. Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus
Delegates agree on Mayo leagues
BEFORE the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the national newspapers were full of letters from people explaining why it was a bad idea.
To judge from the level of opposition in the correspondence pages, one would have been forgiven for expecting a close-run vote. Similarly, the early stages of last Tuesday’s County Board meeting at the Welcome Inn Hotel saw one speaker after another express their reservations about the proposed restructuring of the Mayo GAA League. In the end, however, the proposition was carried overwhelmingly, with only a handful of delegates voting against it.
As a result, the League will be restructured into six sections: Divisions 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A and 3B. All county players will be available for League games and there will be a final in each division. The Kelly Cup, O’Mara Cup, Canon Henry Cup and Northern Cup are to be run on a league basis in May, June and July with and without county players. Senior and intermediate teams must take part in these secondary competitions, while junior sides have the option to participate. Two amendments were also agreed (see opposite).
Eamon Clarke, Chairman of the Task Force Committee which looked at the issue of restructuring, said that the body had ‘taken on board’ criticisms levelled at their original proposals in December. He said promotion and relegation would now be integral to the League.
“The League will commence on St Patrick’s weekend and we envisage it finishing in early October,” he said. “The League will be highly competitive, so there will be no room for sitting back and losing games. There will be no happy resting place for any team. It doesn’t affect the championship. This proposal should mean roughly 20 games a year, which should satisfy every club.”
Clarke explained that if Mayo are successful, the divisional competitions would be played during the summer. Committee member Vincent Neary explained that while senior and intermediate clubs had been ‘left idle all summer’, junior clubs probably had enough competitions without the secondary competitions.
Committee member Paddy McNicholas said the 10-team groups would ensure a competitive league. He added that there had been ‘meaningless’ games and that ‘matches were thrown’ in last year’s League.
Larry Warde (Aghamore) and Padraic Regan (Ballyhaunis) asked about the implications of the proposals for dual clubs. Warde requested that Aghamore be allowed to field a team in Division 3 rather than the Reserve League, which was agreed.
Burrishoole delegate Pat McManamon said the proposal did not involve ‘playing serious football in the summer months’, which is what clubs wanted. The proposal involved two fewer league matches than last year, which was ‘the only difference’ to the 2006 competition. Peter Geraghty (Swinford) added that the secondary competitions wouldn’t ‘bring players from Dublin or Limerick’, and concluded that the county team was ‘dictating the whole shebang’.
Willie Feeley (Claremorris) said the existing league was ‘a far better system’ than what was being proposed. He suggested there would be ‘a big gap’ between the first team and the 20th team in Division 1 and said he wanted the status quo maintained.
“We’re turning the clock back 20 years,” said his club-mate Aidan Brennan. “We’ve spent 20 years developing a league system that’s better than any in the country. This system flies in the face of what’s going on elsewhere, as with the National League. This is a fig leaf: it covers over a problem that we don’t want to deal with; that you can’t run competitive football throughout the summer and have your county players. Last year’s league was a total disaster [because we decided] not to have starred matches. It was proven impossible, and this proposal will also prove impossible … We’ll be kicked out to the end of the year.”
Padraig Heneghan (Tourmakeady) suggested there was ‘a better balance in the existing system’ and suggested the status quo should apply for next year so that ‘teams know in advance what the implications of the League are’.
Sean Hallinan said that while Ballintubber had been opposed to the proposals mooted before Christmas, the reinstatement of promotion and relegation meant they favoured the new scheme. “This gives ambitious intermediate and junior clubs reason to give it a good go”, said Hallinan, who said a competitive competition was necessary to bring out players and supporters.
Sean Mac Éil supported the measures and said it was ‘wrong’ to ask Crossmolina and Shrule/Glencorrib to play without their many county players. “Sixteen or 17 matches is a huge improvement on 14 games that are not competitive,” he said, in reference to the changes originally suggested by the Task Force Committee.
County Board Secretary Sean Feeney said that the proposals were feasible, facilitated county players and provided football in the summer. Anthony Egan (Bonniconlon) and Mattie Murphy (Shrule/Glencorrib) urged delegates to at least try the proposals for a year. Egan said they were ‘a chance for clubs to make the divisional competitions relevant’.
Sean Murphy (Ballinrobe) also added his support, saying the ‘number of meaningless games’ had been a problem in recent years. He suggested an end-of-season play-off system to ensure the top four and bottom four in each group had something to play for.
When the vote on the proposal (with the amendments) was eventually called, it was passed overwhelmingly.
How the leagues will look in 2007
* Aghamore have been granted permission to enter a team in Division 3. Other clubs interested in doing likewise were to have their submitted their names by last Monday.