"I think the momentum we had gained helped us against Cork" - Christie agrees with Tailteann Cup
Tipp and Cavan win...
The provinces are saved! Gaelic football is alive! Or so they said...
Former Dublin player and current Tipperary selector Paddy Christie has a different view on things, insisting that Tipp's Munster final win over Cork was partly down to the momentum they'd gained along the way. Momentum they may not have had, Christie says, if they were playing, and potentially losing to top-tier teams every week.
That's why the Ballymun native is fond of the Tier Two system/Tailteann Cup which was set to come in as part of the 2020 All-Ireland football championship, but will begin in 2021 instead. Basically, what the Tailteann Cup entails is a second-tier championship for Division 3 and 4 National Football League teams who didn't reach their provincial finals or didn't get promoted to Division 2 of the league.
As Division 3 team, Tipperary and Cavan could be directly affected in 2021 but Christie doesn't see that as a negative.
"Overall, I still agree with the concept of it," Christie said of the Tailteann Cup at the launch of AIB and Sportsfile's The Toughest Season photo-book.
"And I’m saying that with a Dublin hat on, Tipperary hat on, DCU hat. I just think as a GAA man, a sportsperson - I still agree with the tiered system, even though in this way, Tipperary would lose out. I just think that the idea that the weaker teams would be playing against the stronger teams, maybe twice, and getting hockeyed twice if you get a bad draw in the qualifiers. I just don’t think that’s good. One of the reasons why there’s such positive vibes around Tipperary this year is because we’ve won a number of games against teams on our own level..."
Prior to that famous Munster final win, Tipp had won four games on the trot - against Offaly, Leitrim, Clare and Limerick - and winning, he argues, is a team's best tonic.
"So we played Offaly in Thurles, they were good but we beat them. Beat Leitrim, and then Clare in the Championship, then beat Limerick. Cork were on a different level to those other teams but I think the momentum we had gained helped us against Cork. I certainly think if we were playing Cork, Tyrone, Dublin, Kerry every week and got a couple of trouncings, I don’t think that would help you, particularly for younger players."
Earning the right to play at the top-tier is another argument in the Tailteann Cup's favour, with its winners to play for the Sam Maguire the following year.
"You can say you’re developing players and learnings off the best teams but when you’re getting poundings every week, I don’t think that’s good. So overall, for football, I still would agree with the concept of the tiered championship."
From a club perspective, the split season certainly suited Christie's home club this year - Ballymun won the Dublin SFC for the first time since 2012 - and he feels that's the way forward in the club sphere.
"Without doubt, it was highly unlikely that Ballymun were going win the championship as long as the set up that was there continued.
"It was something that affected me the year that I was involved. I was in involved in 2017, I was coaching the team. Paddy Carr was the manager and we got beat by Vincent's in the final.
"I remember thinking that I couldn't see myself wanting to stay involved. I'm a very proud Ballymun man and was delighted with the success over the years. I would find it very difficult to look after a team the way did it that year.
"You had fellas training the whole year, playing regularly in league and then suddenly, out of nowhere, they were left on the bench. You had fellas coming back in who had only trained for one or two sessions, after winning an All-Ireland and needless to say, having good celebrations. Their hearts probably weren't in it deep down. At some stage, you get knocked out, and you go back to these guys who were on the bench for the big matches and you say, 'OK, now we want you to commit again'. It was very difficult, very unfair on everyone.
"The split season certainly worked because the lads were able to commit and from talking to people, there was massive good will and good vibes around the place because fellas got to bond with each other again. For me, if the split season does that alone - for any team that has county players involved with a club, it'd be a positive thing I think."