Down stars in favour of Championship restructure as Mournemen bid to secure Sam Maguire ticket

Down's Daniel Guinness
-Credit: (Image: ©INPHO/Tom Maher)

The lack of jeopardy has been one of the big talking points from this year’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and changes could be implemented as early as next season.

GAA president Jarlath Burns has suggested the format of the All-Ireland series could be altered after criticism that teams have too many chances in the current structure.

Both Derry and Roscommon qualified for the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals despite being beaten three times in the Championship.

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One of the formats under consideration is the double-elimination structure in place in the Down club Championship whereby teams could lose once in either of the first two rounds. Teams securing two wins in the first two rounds go through to the quarter-finals with the remaining teams entering a qualifying phase for the remainder quarter-final berths.

Down and Laois go head-to-head in Saturday’s Tailteann Cup final with the winner being guaranteed a place in next season’s Sam Maguire Cup and, speaking at a press night at St Malachy’s High School last week, Castlewellan, both Daniel Guinness and Pierce Laverty spoke favourably of the structure employed in the Down club championship.

“I'd be a big fan of the way the Down Championship is run,” said Guinness.

“I know speaking to a lot of boys from other counties, their sort of feeling is that there's a lot of group games, they might play five or six group games before they actually get to sort of a knockout game.

“I think the Down Championship, the way you can get the second chance in the first two rounds, but every game still has that big championship feeling, I think it's the best way to run it.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Down skipper Laverty.

“Just the fact that there's always something at stake in every game, you have your opportunity to win your first two games and put you into a quarter-final and give you the two-week break,” said Laverty.

Down's Pierce Laverty
Down's Pierce Laverty -Credit:©INPHO/Tom Maher

“Then, on the flip side of that, you have that backdoor if you fall short on the first day and then it immediately becomes knockout football if you don't survive the first day.”

Down claimed a facile 8-16 to 2-12 win over Laois in last season’s Tailteann Cup semi-final before losing out to Meath in the decider.

Conor Laverty’s side had two further chances to seal a place in the All-Ireland series this season. However, they lost out to Westmeath in the Division Three final at Croke Park before suffering a one-point loss to Armagh in the Ulster SFC semi-final in Clones.

Guinness feels the hurt of losing those games and last year’s final will only serve as motivation ahead of Saturday’s decider at headquarters.

“They'll definitely be a big motivation, you've obviously seen us last year, those defeats on the big day, they are hard to take,” added the Carryduff clubman.

“I suppose the only thing you can do after is learn from them and use them as fuel going forward into the big matches, both in your preparation on the training pitch to get yourself into the position to hopefully perform better, but also on the day itself then they also help.”

“I think, especially the two big defeats we've had in the finals between Meath in the Tailteann Cup last year and then obviously Westmeath in the league final this year, we knew what was at stake going into them games and unfortunately in both games we sort of fell short.

“We don't think we performed anywhere near to what we think we're capable of, but I think we've learnt and studied the video from both of them games and sort of identified basically the big areas where we think we can make improvements.

“I think definitely the hurt and the feeling after those two games will hopefully give us an extra drive going into that game next Saturday.”

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