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Pete McGrath Explains His Opposition To Two-Tier Football Championship

Pete McGrath Explains His Opposition To Two-Tier Football Championship

"Sanitised, organised, predictable. We don't want that. I don't want that," is how Pete McGrath summed up the addition of the Super Eights to this year's All-Ireland Football Championship.

In place of the usual straight knockout quarter-finals will be two round-robin groups. McGrath, a two-time All-Ireland winning manager with Down who is now in charge of Louth, believes the new format removes an element of romance from the summer.

"I’m not a naive romantic, by the way, but I still think there is a place for that kind of ‘daring to dream’ on a given day," said McGrath at the launch of the Leinster Football Championship.

"You only have to look at what Tipperary did a number of years ago, getting to an All-Ireland semi-final.

"I mean if that Tipperary team had been in a Super Eight, they wouldn’t have gotten to an All-Ireland semi-final. They would have been clawed back by the three matches. So that’s unlikely to happen now.

"[People say] 'The Super-Eight should make sure that the best eight are there' - sport isn't about that. If they're going to be there, fine, but I think romance, unpredictability, the underdog, the unexpected, if you try to reduce that and take it out of sport, then sport becomes like every other aspect of life."

Even within the Super Eight group, McGrath believes gaps will be evident - the teams with the strongest, biggest panels will rise to the top. "That’s OK in one sense, but it’s sanitising the thing again, which I think is not maybe what we’re looking for in sport."

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The Louth manager is completely against the idea of a tiered football championship as has developed in hurling. It's an opinion he believes would be held by the majority of inter-county players.

I think a second-tier or third-tier championship would be dull. I don't think it would excite and I don't think it would inspire players to commit to months and months of training to play in that type of environment.

I would say you'd find universally across the country that players in practically every county would have no interest in or little enthusiasm for a tiered Championship.

McGrath thinks every footballer in the county has the right to dream that they will one day lift Sam Maguire.

"The reality is in my view, that if you had a tiered championship you'd have players going through their entire football career at county level and they would never play for Sam Maguire.

"They would be stuck in a second-tier or third-tier for maybe their entire career. And I think that would be an awful indictment. So I think every player has almost a right or entitlement [to compete for Sam Maguire]."

Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

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PJ Browne
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