THE DERRY Championship is weighted in favour of the stronger teams, and against the weaker teams.
That’s the assertion made by Foreglen manager Damien O’Connor. He says that there are a core of teams that are much stronger than the rest. meaning that a number of games are very one-sided and the defeats are demoralising for sides like his.
He feels that there are too many teams in the senior championship, and that sides like Foreglen should be allowed to play at Intermediate level, where they belong.
The competition is made up of 12 teams from Divisoin 1A, and four from Division 1B.
O’Connor said: “The way the competition is set up is that it is unfair to weaker teams. We won the Intermediate Championship in 2019 and we seem to have been punished ever since. That’s our view. There are maybe eight or ten teams in the senior level that we would struggle to get close to. We played Ballinascreen who won one or two games in the Division 1A. We played them in the championship and they were so phyisical compared to ourselves.”
Yet O’Connor says that the league format in Derry is very good.
“They are all good games (in Division 1B), and we got turned over a few times. But once we play the Division 1B Sleacht Néill, Lavey and Loup (in the senior Championship) they are too much for us.”
Their only way to get back to Intermediate level is to lose every game. Only one team in the senior championship is relegated down to Intermediate level. There is a knockout competition for the losers in the championship, the winners keep their place in the senior championship, the losers must play again, and so on until there is one game left and the loser of that game is relegated to intermediate.
“I’ve said to the county board. What if you get to the final and both teams want to go to Intermediate. What happens in that match? How do two teams go out to lose a game?”
The Catch 22 situation is that the team would be better served in the Intermediate championship, but they can’t get there because the only way to get there is to lose.
“They say we have to lose every game, but it is not in my nature to coach a team to lose, nor is it in our players. How can you manage a team all your life to go out and be competitive, to then go out and coach them to lose?”
The problem is that in the Senior championship teams like Foreglen will lose repeatedly to big teams and that is demoralising for their players, and when resources are scarce, that is a big issue.
“We are a small area. For us to have 19-20 of a panel we are doing well. We lost boys to Canada who were first team players. Then we pick up injuries. Add in the situation we are in the championship and playing the likes of Glen it can be difficult.”
This weekend Foreglen are playing Glen who are one of the best teams in the county, in O’Connor’s opinion.
“They have been there or thereabouts in the last couple of years, they just can’t get over the line. With that new management set up, and Malachy O’Rourke, he will give them the edge to get over the line against the likes of Sleacht Néill. Glen won’t be that far away.
“But look, we will go out and do our best, that’s all we can do.”