Tailteann Cup revamp could improve spectator appeal – Donnelly

By Niall Gartland

THE Tailteann Cup doesn’t seem to have captured the imagination of the paying public, and Down selector Mickey Donnelly believes the GAA need to look at ways of making the competition more palatable for fans.

Plummeting football championship attendances hit a new low a fortnight ago when fewer than 100 spectators watched the Tailteann Cup Round Three clash between Waterford and Longford In Portlaoise.

Down play host to Wicklow in a quarter-final clash at Páirc Esler on Saturday afternoon, a game that should attract a more respectable attendance, but, all the same, Donnelly believes that a combination of steep ticket prices and a busy schedule of games are serving to deter supporters from travelling to matches.

“I’m not talking about Down here, but the attendances in general have been very poor and we need to do something to make it more appealing for the paying public.

“It’s very difficult to ask families to pay weekend-after-weekend-after-weekend. You’re asking families to travel to games on consecutive weekends, sometimes as many as three Sundays out of four.

“Generally, I’m very pro split-season but I don’t think we’ve got the balance right. The good thing is that there’s lots of ways the format can be tweaked, but I definitely think something needs to be done.”

As well as ticket prices and everything else, the game itself is perceived by many to be in a poor enough state. Donnelly broadly welcomes the mooted rules changes unveiled by the Football Review Committee earlier this weekend, including the potential for points to be worth double when kicked from outside a new scoring arc, while goals would be worth four points if the new proposals come to pass.

“We really need to look at making the game as user-friendly as possible. Anything that can stimulate more scores and lead to more attacking football, the better. It would be exciting if teams chasing a goal get four points out of it, and likewise it’d be great if there are more long-distance scores.

“Accurate long-kicking has nearly been coached out of lads so I would be in favour of the new scoring zone, I think that’s a great idea.”

Down were rampant in the group stages of the Tailteann Cup and are red hot favourites to account for Oisín McConville’s Wicklow on Saturday. They’ve been tipping along nicely but Donnelly says that the management team are wary of the possibility that they might be undercooked heading into this weekend after claiming facile group stage wins over Limerick, London and Offaly.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend and hopefully beyond, but the worry is are we going in undercooked, so we’re working hard to help make sure the lads are as razor sharp as they can be against Wicklow.

“Wicklow did something we weren’t able to muster, they went to Mullingar and beat Westmeath which was a huge result for them. We’re very aware of the challenge they’ll bring, and they’ve Mark Jackson back from the NFL, that’s a huge boost for them, goalkeepers are so important and he belongs in the top bracket of goalkeepers in the country.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW