Joe Brolly has called for a restructuring of the All-Ireland Football Championship involving “at least three tiers”.
The Sunday Game pundit said that pitting Division 4 teams against top-level opposition was “cruel”.
This weekend, Leitrim were beaten by 14 points by Roscommon, although Division 4 teams fared better elsewhere.
Limerick shocked Tipperary with a seven-point win, Waterford lost by a point to Clare, Wicklow came two points short of Kildare, and Derry briefly led All-Ireland runners-up Tyrone with 15 minutes to go before losing by six points. Division 3 Offaly also fell two points short of a shock against Meath, while London lost by four points to Galway last week.
“This is cruel,” said Brolly after the highlights of Leitrim’s loss to Roscommon.
“It’s cruel what’s happening and until teams like Leitrim are treated with the same respect in the Association as Kerry, Dublin, Tyrone, and Mayo, we do not have an equitable, fair association.
“You look at Leitrim’s Division 4 campaign, which was terrific, great fun, and they played some terrific football at their level. It was their first time in Croke Park in 12 years. Emlyn Mulligan had never played there [in a competitive game].
“Leitrim gaels from all over the world assembled in Croke Park and what a day it was. I was privileged to be there at a lunch before it of Leitrim greats from the 50s.
“And then you get this thoroughly deflating experience today, which was absolutely inevitable. The sooner we get to a situation where we’ve got a competitive championship that mirrors the league… We need at least three tiers.
“Managers like Ciaran Deely from London and Jack Cooney from Westmeath, they’re saying exactly what we all know to be the reality: ‘Give us a vibrant championship at our level, that is treated with respect, that has the same money pumped into it where we’re playing three All-Ireland finals on the same day in Croke Park, where everyone is afforded All-Stars, where we treat everyone with respect and in the same way.’”
Deely took to Twitter this morning to argue in favour of a two-tier structure, with the option to develop a third tier down the line, if needed.
He made the point that while Division 4 teams have been more competitive this year, all bar Limerick have lost.
Brolly added: “I would say the argument is being won around the country. We’ve been talking about this for five or six years as the gulf has widened. But we’re very slow in the GAA to start putting nuts in bolts on it.
“John Horan is a man of good intent in relation to this. He’s talking about two tiers. Two tiers will not be enough because the teams in Division 4 need that slightly special treatment. You call it the ‘Bomber’ Liston, the Mikey Sheehy (Cup), afford them respect, have a vibrant championship where they play their All-Ireland on All-Ireland final day with the other two tiers, and you’ve got a festival of football.
“It works brilliantly for the ladies. They are so far ahead of us when it comes to this and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work for us.”