By Damian Dolan
London senior manager Ciaran Deely says he would back any move to introduce of a Two-Tier football championship for 2020.
Deely watched his Exiles team exit this year’s All-Ireland championship in Tullamore on Saturday, as Offaly inflicted a 1-21 to 1-11 defeat.
It’s the sixth year in a row that London’s championship season has come to an end after just two games – something Deely says needs to change and the “sooner the better”, if lower level teams are to compete against the stronger counties.
“I think change is inevitable now and I would welcome that,” Deely told the Irish World.
On Sunday, Croke Park announced the formation of its new Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force – established by GAA president John Horan. Structural change will be part of its committee’s remit.
Deely added: “The president and director general (Tom Ryan) are behind it and I think there’s been a sea-change amongst the players. The majority are in favour of it now.”
Of the eight teams to exit the championship after last weekend’s first qualifier round, three were from Division 4, and the remaining five came from Division 3.
“To introduce a Round Robin for the eight best teams (Super 8s) is a little bit farcical, while teams at the bottom are done after two games. It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
“The only way to improve long-term is more games. How good would it be for our lads if we had another two games, and the chance to put that Offaly performance right?”
The Task Force committee has been tasked with delivering a report with recommendations by November, which will drive a discussion ahead of the potential for rule changes to be voted on at Congress 2020.
It’s been asked to “examine current national competition structures and their timing in the context of the time available for the inter-county game” and make recommendations “on options for change”.
Horan has previously voiced his support for a change to the current football structure, most recently when conducting last month’s Round 1 qualifier draw on RTE’s Morning Ireland.
He said that a Two-Tier football championship could come into effect as early as next year.
“There is an appetite out there within the organisation for us to go ahead with a Tier 2 Championship. Now, I feel, is the time to grab that when the appetite is out there,” Horan told RTE’s Morning Ireland.
Deely says more games and a longer championship might also act as a “carrot” to attract more players in London to commit to the county team.
While a two and a half hour flight delay the night before didn’t help London’s players in Offaly, the bigger factor for Deely was the lack of games in the five-week period after the Galway match.
The #GAA has announced the membership and also the terms of reference for the new Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 9, 2019
London never quite “reached the heights” they had against the Tribesmen. Despite the players being a bit “flat” Deely was adamant they weren’t “ten points inferior to Offaly”.
Having agreed a one-year extension last year, Deely says he’ll speak with the county board and gage the feelings and plans of the players before making a decision about his future as London manager.
“I don’t know if they (the board) want me, and from my own point of view I’d like to see things brought on to another level. Now is the time to push on,” he said.
“The players’ plans would be important because to improve you need stability – you need the same players.”
Going forwards, Deely would like to see funds made available for the team to travel back to Ireland for a challenge match and mini training camp, between the Connacht game and the qualifiers.
He’d also like the team to return to the FBD League, in preparation for the National League.
He added: “That would give the opportunity to bed down a team early.”