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OPINION: Plan B isn’t perfect but it’s a step in the right direction

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The ‘league as championship’ model has its flaws but it must be passed at Congress nevertheless, writes Adam Moynihan

As I was weighing up the rights and wrongs of the ongoing football championship debate, a quote by the American political columnist George Will came to mind. I have no idea who the man is if I’m being perfectly honest. The politics of Kerry football keep me busy enough without concerning myself with Capitol Hill.

But I happened upon this line of his once and for some reason it stuck with me. “The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.”

‘Perfect’ is always the goal but sometimes ‘better’ is good enough.

Plan B is certainly not perfect. Far from it. In fact, I would describe it as a pretty poorly thought-out proposal. My biggest concern is the fact that the Division 3 and 4 winners (the 17th and 25th ranked teams in the football pyramid) will participate in the All-Ireland series, while the 6th, 7th and 8th teams will not. The 12th to 16th placed teams will also be eliminated without playing a single knockout championship game.

Sport is supposed to be a meritocracy. It’s hard to justify granting the 25th best team in the country a shot at the All-Ireland while the 6th best team are left behind. Frankly, it smacks of the GAA pandering to the weaker counties in a fairly condescending way. They are effectively saying, “here you go, you can still win Sam”. Before muttering, “good luck against Dublin” once they’re safely out of earshot.

If Proposal B does get the go ahead, this is one crease that needs to be ironed out.

As I’ve said before in this column, I also don’t believe that two tiers are enough. There will still be mismatches between the strongest and weakest teams in the All-Ireland Championship and the strongest and weakest teams in the Tailteann Cup.

But the bottom line for me as a fan and a journalist, and I truly hope it will be the bottom line for at least 60% of voters at Saturday’s Congress, is that Plan B is an improvement. It’s better than what we have currently, and it’s a lot better than the other proposal on the table.

SIMILAR LEVEL

Plan B will give teams more championship matches against opposition who are operating at a similar level as them. Kerry beating Tipperary by 15 points does nothing for the development of Kerry or Tipperary football. In order to grow, Kerry need to be playing against teams who can beat them, and Tipperary need to be playing against teams whom they can beat. (And in order to enjoy the fare, spectators and television viewers need to see matches that are not foregone conclusions.)

In the early days of the two-tier debate, some dissenting voices from the traditionally less successful teams complained that they could no longer win the Sam Maguire if they were “demoted” to a ‘B’ championship. (Which is probably why the Division 3 and Division 4 winners are getting a golden ticket to take part in the preliminary quarter-finals of the ‘A’ championship.) Leaving aside the fact that some of these teams have won exactly none of the 134 previous iterations of the tournament, this attitude is patently self-defeating.

Playing in the Tailteann Cup (or, preferably, a third-tier championship) would actually greatly increase their chances of lifting Sam in the medium-to-longer term. Lining out against teams of a similar standing would allow them to put a run together, and so build momentum, and so build confidence. This is how the weak teams develop. Not by getting tanked by an All-Ireland contender on an annual basis.

Who’s to say that a Division 4 team like Wicklow can’t steadily build by getting good results over a number of years, win the Tailteann Cup, and eventually find their footing at senior level? It might take a decade. It might take two or three of them. But isn’t ‘some day’ better than ‘never’?

Look at a club like Kenmare Shamrocks. Ten years ago they were playing junior football but by graduating on merit through the Kerry Club Championship system, they are now a major force at senior level. Last weekend they competed in their second successive senior club final. Would they be where they are now if Kerry football wasn’t structured the way it is? I would say probably not. Success breeds success. If they were getting tarred by Dr Crokes in an “All-Kerry” championship in 2011, they’d probably still be getting tarred by Dr Crokes in 2021. They earned their right to sit at the top table, and the journey has made them what they are.

Another criticism of Plan B is that it will downgrade the importance of the provincial championships. For what it’s worth, my personal response to that is fairly straightforward: good.

KERRY TEAM

As for the Kerry team, Plan B works for them too. The players are in favour of it. A poll on my personal Twitter account suggests that over 87% of Kerry supporters are in favour of it.

However, the Kerry delegation heading to HQ are apparently undecided and waiting to have their arms twisted on the day. It’s a little surprising that they haven’t yet made their minds up – it’s not like there hasn’t already been enough public debate on the issue – but we must reserve judgment until they make their final call. As long as they arrive at the right decision, that’s all that matters.

The ill-conceived Plan A (four provincial groups of eight plus knockout) appears to be a complete non-runner for Kerry and for most counties, which is a relief because this motion comes directly before Plan B on the agenda. If Plan A were to get the necessary 60% majority, the arguments for and against Plan B wouldn’t even be heard.

TIDE

Cork, Tipperary, Clare, Carlow, Louth, Wexford, Meath, Offaly, Kildare, Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo and Down have confirmed that they will be backing Plan B.

The rest of Ulster are expected to vote against the motion, along with Galway and Mayo.

On Wednesday, GAA President Larry McCarthy and Director General Tom Ryan threw their considerable weight behind the ‘league as championship’ model. McCarthy urged delegates to be “bold” and go for the more radical proposal. I don’t even think it takes boldness to opt for Plan B. All it takes is a little bit of common sense.

After years of debate, the tide appears to have turned the right way for those who seek progress. That being said, this is the GAA. There is bound to be resistance in certain quarters - a desire to keep to the status quo. These traditionalists, and those with genuine reservations, will point to how imperfect Plan B is, and they’re not wrong. Plan B isn’t perfect. It’s just better.

Isn’t that enough?

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‘Golf is open to everyone’ – Doherty enjoying success on disabled golf tour

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by Adam Moynihan

Former mayor of Killarney Tom Doherty says awareness around disabilities is “springing forward” as sporting bodies, businesses and communities strive to become more inclusive.

Doherty, who suffered a spinal injury when he was 15 and now walks with the assistance of a cane, is witnessing this trend first-hand as a member of Ireland’s flourishing disabled golf scene.

The Killarney native recently took part in the Disabled and Inclusive Golf Association of Ireland outing at Slieve Russell Golf Club in Cavan before flying out to England for a European Disability Golf Association tour event at Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club. Doherty claimed first place in the stableford category at the Royal Leamington venue.

He is now looking forward to the inaugural Irish Open for golfers with a disability, which will take place in Roganstown Country Club in Dublin at the beginning of July.

“Golf Ireland are doing a lot of work behind the scenes for inclusivity, which is great,” Doherty told the Killarney Advertiser. “They’re putting a lot of time into it.

“Clubs are opening up and people are getting more educated about disabilities and access. If you can help someone to overcome whatever barriers they have, golf is open to everyone.”

Golfers with visual impairment, cerebral palsy, spinal injuries and those who are amputees all compete on the Irish circuit.

“There’s specialised equipment out there,” Doherty explains. “A person who is a full-time wheelchair user can get a specially designed ‘Paragolfer’ machine that is fully adaptable, and that can carry them around specifically on a golf course. It will raise the golfer, according to the level of their disability, to take their shot, and away they go.

“There are special rules for golfers with certain disabilities – for example if a bunker is a certain size and their buggy is too big for it, they’ll get a drop. Still under penalty. A bad shot is still a bad shot!”

The former town councillor, who now works with the HSE, has been a disabilities advocate for many years and he has noticed a major cultural shift in recent times in particular.

“It’s great to see awareness and opportunities and education really springing forward now. It’s very exciting.

“It has been happening for a number of years but now it’s really blossoming.”

Visibility is a big part of this, Doherty insists, and local Paralympian Jordan Lee from the Killarney Valley club has been an important figure in this regard.

“I was actually competing the same day Jordan did his first official high jump (Doherty has represented Ireland in the discus, javelin and shot putt – he has also played basketball with the Kingdom Wheel Blasters and the Limerick Celtics).

“Jordan has turned into a big hero for kids, and a big brand name and an ambassador. At the end of the day, 17% of people have a disability. It’s a specific market but it’s a lot of people, and I think brands and industry are realising this more and more. And a lot of larger companies are becoming more connected to the community, which is a great thing.

“The kids look up to Jordan and, when it comes down to it, he’s another Irish athlete who gives it his all.

“Take the ‘dis’ out of ‘disability’ and you have ‘ability’. At first, young people might look at Jordan and say, ‘look, daddy, he’s got one arm’. But then eventually they go, ‘that’s Jordan the athlete, look how high he can jump’.

“Visibility is a huge thing. That’s the name of the game.”

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Lough Lein anglers enjoy annual charity day 

It’s always a popular event, and Sunday was no different for the members of the Lough Lein Anglers Association. The Killarney club, one of the longest established fishing clubs in Ireland, […]

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It’s always a popular event, and Sunday was no different for the members of the Lough Lein Anglers Association.

The Killarney club, one of the longest established fishing clubs in Ireland, held their 34th annual charity open fly fishing competition known simply as ‘The Charity’.

It’s part of the angling tradition in the club and is always the most popular event on the fly fishing calendar in Ireland.

Spearheaded by Timo O’Sullivan, to date the anglers have raised in excess of €229,000 for deserving charities in Kerry and Cork. The main sponsor of the event is Lee Strand Co-op, Tralee.

This year’s deserving beneficiaries are the Kerry Hospice Foundation and The Saoirse Foundation – BUMBLEance.

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