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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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Paudie Clifford returns and scores wondergoal as Kerry dismantle Monaghan

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Adam Moynihan reports from the Fitzgerald Stadium

National League Division 1

Kerry 3-16 Monaghan 0-14

HT: Kerry 0-10 Monaghan 0-6

A spectacular second-half goal by surprise inclusion Paudie Clifford helped Kerry to an impressive 11-point over Monaghan in Killarney this afternoon.

The All-Star forward wasn’t named on the initial panel of 27 but when his name was called out as No. 26 before the game, a loud cheer rang out around the O’Sullivan Stand. Kerry fans had to wait until the 46th minute to see the Fossa captain make his first appearance of the season but it didn’t take him long to make his mark.

After soloing all of 80 metres, the elder Clifford dispatched a perfect finish beyond the reach of Rory Beggan to send Kerry nine points clear with 51 minutes on the clock.

In truth the game was drifting away from Monaghan before Clifford’s cameo but his sensational contribution made absolutely certain.

With two points on the board and David Clifford and Seánie O’Shea waiting in the wings ahead of Mayo away in two weeks’ time, Kerry manager Jack O’Connor will be a happy man leaving Killarney this evening.

GIFTED

Monaghan stayed in touch with Kerry for the first quarter, thanks in the main to a string of needless fouls that gifted the away team some easy scores.

Conor McCarthy broke the deadlock with one such free in the 6th minute and Tony Brosnan got Kerry off the mark two minutes later with a placed ball of his own.

The reliable Dessie Ward and Kerry’s bustling full forward Darragh Roche exchanged scores before Micheál Bannigan tapped over a free to re-establish the Farney’s early lead.

Kerry then went on a mini-run, instigated by a neat team move that saw Tony Brosnan and Micheál Burns combine to tee up the excellent Tom O’Sullivan for a close-in score.

Good work by Barry Dan O’Sullivan from a hop ball led to another Brosnan free, and then a high, skyscraper of a point from the stand side into the scoreboard end by Donal Down O’Sullivan gave the hosts a two-point lead.

However, two more avoidable fouls handed Monaghan’s free-takers McCarthy and Bannigan a point apiece and midway through the first half, the scores were level at 0-5 each.

The Kingdom finally began to inject some pace into proceedings in the second quarter with Dara Moynihan and Micheál Burns especially active. The All-Ireland champions scored five of the next six points with Roche, Brosnan (free), Moynihan, Donal Down O’Sullivan and Burns all hitting the target.

A tasty individual effort by Monaghan’s best forward, Conor McCarthy, left the scores at 0-10 to 0-6 at the break.

UNDONE

Monaghan’s good work in the first half was rather quickly undone in the second as Kerry exerted their dominance in all sectors. By the time Darragh Roche evaded Beggan and goaled in the 39th minute, the home side led by eight (1-12 to 0-7) and the result already appeared to be beyond question.

In fairness to Vinney Corey’s charges, they rattled off three unanswered points over the next 10 minutes – and they would have scored a goal but for a great save by Shane Murphy – but then Clifford’s introduction set the tone for the remainder.

Adrian Spillane’s goalbound effort was tipped over in the 49th minute (Spillane was the last of Kerry’s six forwards to score) and then Clifford gathered the ball inside his own 65, sprinted straight for goal, and finished emphatically to make it 2-13 to 0-10.

Things got worse for Monaghan four minutes later when Ryan O’Toole saw red for a high tackle on Stefan Okunbor. In the next attack, Tom O’Sullivan sauntered forward to drive a trademark outside-of-the-boot shot between the uprights and Kerry led by double scores (2-14 to 0-10).

Stephen O’Hanlon was one of Monaghan’s shining lights and he scored two of his three points in the final quarter, but they counted for little when all was said and done.

TG4’s Man of the Match Donal Down O’Sullivan capped a fine full debut with a nice goal in stoppage time as Kerry picked up their first league win of the season.

KERRY: S Murphy; G O’Sullivan, J Foley, T O’Sullivan (0-2); P Warren, T Morley, P Murphy; J Barry, BD O’Sullivan; M Burns (0-1), D Moynihan (0-1), A Spillane (0-1); T Brosnan (0-4f), D Roche (1-2), D O’Sullivan (1-3).

Subs: P Clifford (1-1) for Moynihan; S Okunbor for BD O’Sullivan; K Spillane (0-1m) for Roche, G Horan for Warren; R Murphy for A Spillane.

MONAGHAN: R Beggan; T McPhillips, K Duffy (0-1), R Wylie; C Boyle, D Ward (0-1), K Loughran; K  Lavelle, C Lennon; S O’Hanlon (0-3), M Bannigan (0-3, 2f), J Wilson; C McCarthy (0-5, 4f), K Gallagher (0-1), S Carey.

Subs: D Treanor for Lennon; G Mohan for Wilson; T McPhillips for Lavelle; S Jones for Carey; S Slevin for Wylie.

Attendance: 10,232

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St Paul’s ladies’ contribution to club honoured

By Sean Moriarty St Paul’s Basketball club recognised the contribution of its ladies’ players during their National Basketball League home game on Saturday night. Since the start of the season, […]

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0249820_Ladies_Basketball_3.jpg

By Sean Moriarty

St Paul’s Basketball club recognised the contribution of its ladies’ players during their National Basketball League home game on Saturday night.

Since the start of the season, coach James Fleming has named his Most Valuable Player (MVP) after each home game.

The club presented each MVP award winner with a special trophy at halftime during the club’s tie with Dublin side Swords Thunder at Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre on Saturday.

Lynn Jones, who is one of the sport’s longest servants in Kerry, picked up her award from the Limerick Celtics game earlier in the season.

Rheanne O’Shea won the MPV during the Portlaoise Panthers match.

Yuleska Ramirez Tedja was the MPV against UL Sport Huskies last year.

Deise Dunlea was the most recent nomination for an MPV award and she also received her award on Saturday night.

The team also honoured their Irish International player Leah McMahon and presented Leah’s mother Anne with flowers as a thank-you for her support to the club.

“The dedication of these ladies is unbelievable, we have eight games in a row coming up, five at home and one each in Belfast, Cavan and Dublin and they are all working or studying,” manager Siobhan Bennett told the Killarney Advertiser.

“Coach James Fleming wanted to show his appreciation for this dedication.”

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