Andy McEntee favours a tiered football championship
By John Harrington
Meath football team manager, Andy McEntee, believes the competitiveness of the Allianz Football League signposts how the All-Ireland Football Championship could be better structured.
The Royals have had two seriously competitive matches with Tipperary and Donegal so far in Division Two, winning one and losing the other, and across all four Divisions the League has so far been ferociously contested.
“That's the beauty of the League and I think that's why a lot of people would like to see the Championship structured in a similar manner,” said McEntee today.
“It's a good competition. You could throw a blanket over nearly all of the teams in our group and on any given day anyone could beat anyone else.
“That's probably the hallmark of a really good competition and that's the beauty of the League.”
McEntee believes an All-Ireland Championship divided into two tiers either at the outset or by the knock-out stage would replicate the same sort of closely contested matches we've seen so far during the Allianz League.
“You have 16 teams in Division 1 and Division 2, so you could divide that into four groups of four and everybody gets three games which I think is important for teams that are trying to develop and close the gap on the top-tier teams because you're not going to do that without playing matches.
“If you could guarantee everybody three games, I think you'd have more buy-in from players. There's a lot of talk about people not committing to the county scene, but if you thought you were only going to get one or two games in a year, that's probably one of the issues.
“I think if you had four groups of four, and then the top two in those go into quarter-finals.
“And even if you wanted to expand it you could have eight groups of four and you could include everybody and then the top two in each group go into competition A and the bottom two in each group into competition B. That's another possibility.”
McEntee admits Meath’s Allianz Football League Division 2 defeat to Donegal last Saturday was ‘frustrating’.
His team played some really good football in the first 60 minutes of the match but were undone by the concession of a soft goal that gave Donegal the momentum to come with a winning charge.
McEntee and his players are choosing to dwell on the positives of their performance though as they ready themselves for what should be another highly competitive match with Armagh this Sunday that will have a big impact on the promotion race.
“Yeah, there were a lot of things that we did well," he said. "We defended pretty well in general, we got a lot of good scores. There was a lot of good individual displays.
“I think we won a lot of the individual battles, probably more than Donegal did. But it's about results and it's such tight Division. As results over the weekend showed, there's very little between the vast majority of teams.
“I'm certainly very happy with the application of the players. I was happy for 60 minutes of the game on Saturday night. Disappointed with the result, but a lot of positives and a lot of good performances from newer members of the panel.
“In that regard we're in an okay spot. But things can change very quickly. Certainly in this Division. You win a game and you could be on top of the League or very close to the top. Lose a game and you could be on the bottom of it.
“Armagh and ourselves are both on two points now so it's a big prize to play for this weekend.
“There's going to be nothing in it. Everybody is pretty even in this Division so it should be a really good contest.”