Sweeney’s Junior proposal stirs Presidential debate

Down's Damien Turley blasts the ball to the Leitrim net for the Mourne county's fourth goal in the recent All-Ireland Qualifier game in Newry. Photo by Willie Donnellan
The controversial suggestion that Leitrim re-grade to the Junior Championship made by County Board Secretary Diarmuid Sweeney has stirred some debate with GAA President Liam O’Neill raising the prospect of over-hauling the current football qualifier system.

The controversial suggestion that Leitrim re-grade to the Junior Championship made by County Board Secretary Diarmuid Sweeney has stirred some debate with GAA President Liam O’Neill raising the prospect of over-hauling the current football qualifier system.

Speaking at the launch of the All-Ireland Hurling Championships in Clare, O’Neill said of the Leitrim Secretary’s suggestion “The qualifiers are being questioned because realistically, no matter what system you have, there’s a group of eight or 10 who are going to come through anyway.

“People are taking the view that the longer you’re in the qualifiers, the more costly it is to keep going, if you haven’t a reasonable chance of getting to the quarter-finals.

“While we probably won’t go back to a ‘B’ championship, I think there has to be some rethink on what we’re doing with counties like Leitrim for whom the qualifiers have never made much sense.

“Leitrim secretary Diarmuid Sweeney revealed to the Irish Examiner earlier this month the county were considering dropping down to junior level if a B championship was not forthcoming”

“They’ve never had any great success (in the qualifiers) and I think the county secretary has expressed that recently. So, when you hear someone from a county like that expressing reservations about it, you have to at least give an ear to him and see what proposals he has.

“I’ve said I want a debate on it. I want people to discuss it at least. If you keep on doing the same thing, over and over again, you’re going to get the same results. But if we want things to change, then we have to change something in the mix.

“The debate is probably best carried on among those counties who’ve had least success in the qualifiers and for whom it has sometimes been a costly experience just prolonging the inevitable and keeping them from their basic mission of playing club games.”

The Irish Examiner also backed up Diarmuid Sweeney’s assertion that he only called for Leitrim to consider re-grading to the Junior Championship in the absence of a B Championship as their report stated “Leitrim secretary Diarmuid Sweeney revealed to the Irish Examiner earlier this month the county were considering dropping down to junior level if a B championship was not forthcoming”.

The Examiner’s report at the time did not mention Sweeney’s call for a B Championship and the comments provoked a lot of negative comment among Leitrim supporters on the Leitrim Observer Facebook page.