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Mickey Quinn in All Ireland SFC Round 2 Qualifier action against Kildare in June.
Mickey Quinn in All Ireland SFC Round 2 Qualifier action against Kildare in June.

Mickey Quinn supports Championship reform

By Cian O’Connell

Longford footballer Mickey Quinn believes the creation of a new All Ireland Football Championship structure would assist developing counties.

The highly regarded Quinn, who remains an influential figure for the midlanders, is adamant that a second tier competition will aid teams in the long term.

On Tuesday GAA President John Horan offered his support when discussing the potential of an altered system for the summer months.

During the past couple of decades Longford have taken significant scalps in the qualifiers winning 17 and losing 18 of their 35 matches in that stage, but Quinn still feels a change in format would be beneficial.

“From my side of things looking at it the years fly by very quickly, you look back at the odd occasion where you have an upset here or there in the qualifiers,” Quinn says.

“Longford have been traditionally very good at causing an upset here or there, but at the same time it doesn't really create a whole pile of continuity going forward.

“You might win a game where you are underdogs, but the next game out you might lose and then you are starting from scratch again the following year. It doesn't, I feel, lend itself to progression from one year to the next.

“It doesn't really help a team progress, especially if you want to call it for want of a better term your second tier teams or teams in Division Three or Four.”

Quinn is adamant that a change in approach is worth considering, highlighting the competitiveness of the Allianz Football League of how counties relish the chance to play against teams of similar stature.

Ciaran Kilkenny, Dublin, and Mickey Quinn, Longford during the 2018 Leinster SFC Semi-Final.
Ciaran Kilkenny, Dublin, and Mickey Quinn, Longford during the 2018 Leinster SFC Semi-Final.

“You want to probably be in a position or a structure where there is that room for progression from year to year,” Quinn adds.

“You can actually almost measure it and the thing you can see from that is for ourselves is Division based whether you are Division Four, Three or Two.

“We have stayed in Division Three for the last number of years because in the past we have been a bit of a yoyo going from Division Two to Three to Four, and back up to Three, back down to Four, and back up to Three again. I think there is merit in the League and it is something because a lot of teams are starting to place huge emphasis on.”

Throughout Quinn’s playing career Longford have caused shocks in the qualifiers, but he acknowledges that no easy fix exists as teams still relish games against high profile opposition.

“You are probably trying to find a structure that will allow for that possibly, for the opportunity of getting a day out against a so called big team,” Quinn admits.

“I know there was talk about groups of four, having them seeded with Divisions One, Two, Three, and Four teams in a group. I think the idea initially suggested was the Division Three and Four teams would get the Division One and Two teams at home, which would create that bit of an atmosphere and bit of a buzz in a county.

“Getting more games, whether that means getting more games against teams of your own level with the opportunity to progress to play at a higher level, whether that means it isn't until the following year then there is a bit of progression and building for the next year. I think that is the thing.

“If you look at any League or structure around the place, you are building. It shouldn't be just one year at a time, that is probably where I feel there is merit for a structure where you say we are going to do this during this year and build on something going forward where the next year you are up in the first tier because that is the position you merit.

“Is there room for that in one system, that is the hardest thing, to put a system or structure in place that allows for all those things to see if it is really viable then.”

Mickey Quinn remains a key figure for the Longford footballers.
Mickey Quinn remains a key figure for the Longford footballers.

Quinn remains adamant that tweaks can be made to ensure a new set-up can be embraced by all those involved. “I think the biggest issue is in order to do that the season has to be condensed, but you want to play more games if that makes sense,” Quinn remarks.

“The issue is if you are talking to Leitrim, Longford, whoever that you have a chance to play in Croke Park so all the clubs need to be put on hold until that is played or go back between the two which means it mightn't get the proper attention or appreciation it should.

“When you have Dublin playing in an All Ireland Final a few weekends ago, you look back at the teams knocked out in July you probably have eight to 10 , 12 weeks gone by from when the first team to the last team is knocked out.

“You want to condense that period as much as you can because then it allows for the clubs to have a proper club season so it is very difficult.”

Ultimately, ensuring counties such as Longford make tangible progress is what Quinn hopes can be attained.

“You do want to play against the best, to improve yourself, but then at the same time you have to earn that,” Quinn states.

“That traditional sense that it is Longford versus Dublin or David versus Goliath. On anyone given we could people will say, and that is probably the joy in sport too, but at the same time there is a naivety level to things. You have to be realistic.

“You are nearly just telling lies to yourself that eventually you might believe it and it might happen, it is great, but at the same time I would be looking at it to make progress, to try to build something rather than ‘it could happen’.

“You'd love to see something happen, but it is so hard to put a plan and a structure in place because when you are putting something so big you can't tell someone what that plan is in the space of 15 or 20 minutes because a lot of thought must go into it and that is probably what is so difficult to get across to people.”

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