‘Definitely a conversation to be had’ about a second-tier championship, says Leinster club winner

LEINSTER-WINNING CLUB star Shane Mulligan believes that “there is definitely is a conversation to be had” about the possible introduction of a second-tier football championship.

Mulligan soldiered at inter-county level for 10 years before retiring in 2015.

Source: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Along with his incredible exploits with Mullinalaghta this season, Mulligan previously soldiered at inter-county level for 10 years.

He called time on his days in the blue and gold jersey in 2015, following an impressive career as a regular starter in the Longford defence. 

Mulligan points out that his decision was simply down to being content with his lot in the game, while also coming to a stage in life where marriage and raising a family was starting to take over.

He recalls his years with Longford fondly, and was involved in some major victories down through the years. But as the gap between teams continues to widen, he suggests that perhaps it is time to start a discussion about bringing in a second-tier championship.

Having been through 10 years with Longford, it’s probably there for debate. There definitely is a conversation to be had about it. I know when I reflect on my time with Longford and some of our performances, we had great battles and some great games with [the likes of] Wexford and Offaly.

“We had a couple of replays and things like that and they were much more enjoyable performances than going out to the bigger counties and suffering big losses. 

“They take time and take a lot out of you to bounce back from. For me personally, there was more enjoyment in those real competitive games on championship days in the sun when the stadiums are full. Coming into the closing stages of the game and it’s still there rather than when the stadium is half empty and you’re being beaten by 12 or 14 points.”

Mulligan continues by referring to Longford’s deserved reputation for being qualifier specialists, but adds that producing consistent performances was sometimes a struggle for the midlands county.

“I know we took some big scalps in the qualifiers but I suppose you didn’t really have that consistency. You were getting a big performance and a big win but then you mightn’t be backing it up .

“I don’t know. At club [level], I would have played a lot of intermediate and that’s where you learn the trade and then progress into senior.” 

Longford have been dealt a significant blow in the build-up to this year’s Leinster SFC, with the news that key players including Darren Gallagher, Robbie Smyth, Dessie Reynolds and Rian Brady are all set to be unavailable for manager Padraic Davis.

Longford boss Padraic Davis will have to plan without the services of some key players in the championship.

Source: Dave Farrell/INPHO

The Longford Leader reports that all the players involved are understood to be making plans to travel to America.

“I suppose it is part and parcel with the smaller counties,” remarks Mulligan.

“Longford were always going to feel it that little bit more. I suppose it is life choices and things like that.

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“Other things in your life take up time, and the way inter-county football has gone, it’s such a professional aspect, so you need to devote so much of your time to things like that. I guess it’s all a juggling act. Young lads before they settle down want to get away too.”

Mullinalaghta captured the imagination of GAA people across the country this year with their incredible journey to becoming the first Longford club to win a senior Leinster title.

They stunned the Dublin champions Kilmacud Crokes in the final last December before bowing out at the All-Ireland semi-final stage against a strong Dr Crokes outfit earlier this year.

There’s no regrets about that defeat in Semple Stadium and team captain Mulligan says that normality has since resumed in the north-Longford half-parish, where players understand that “you don’t get away with airs and graces out there.”

A delighted Mulligan after Mullinalghta’s Leinster final victory.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Mullinalaghta are now fully focused on the 2019 season, and Longford have made effective use of the club-only month, according to Mulligan.

Mullinalaghta have up to four league games to play before inter-county game takes over again, with the club championship to come later in the year.

“It’s been good,” says Mulligan.

“It’s important for us because the club is so small and the numbers are so tight that we really need our county players back out with us to be competitive.

“We have them back and in good fettle. It gives you a bit of momentum and gives an opportunity to coaching from the new manager and working with his full crew.”

Shane Mulligan was speaking at the launch of the Beko Club Bua programme 2019, the quality mark for Leinster GAA clubs.

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