I read recently that the GAA is hoping to reintroduce the semi final format to The National League in an attempt to doing away with dead rubber games in the latter stages of the competition. I am not convinced that such an approach will make any significant change to the intensity of these games because most teams now use the league to blood new players and experiment with tactics, formations and styles of play. In the eyes of many GAA folk the league is very much the warm up act and is not taken all that seriously. While winning any competition is always nice the big prize comes much later in the season and that is what most players and managers are focussed on. The two additional games that are being proposed will add to an already congested fixture list and there are those in the country who feel that the decision has more to do with generating income than ensuring supporters get a fair deal.
I have to say I still value the league and see it as a competition well worth competing for. Both Cork and Down showed this year that the experience gained and confidence developed as a result of competing for a national title can only be good for a team. If you look around our county there are not that many National League titles or medals to be seen and with a number of young players on our panel needing time to mature as inter county footballers, the league is as good a learning environment as you could get. Interestingly although Tyrone are still rated as one of the top four teams in the country I believe they could find themselves up against it in Division Two this season. Teams like Meath, Derry, Kildare, Sligo and Donegal will be very difficult opponents and anyone expecting a quick return to the top flight might need to think again.
Donegal could well be the dark horses of this division with Jimmy Mc Guinness installed as their new coach. They will be determined to put the disappointment of this year behind them and Mc Guinness will certainly bring a new sense of optimism and professionalism to the setup. I see where he has organised a coaching conference in Donegal on the first weekend of December bringing together some of the leading lights in GAA coaching and thinking. Men like Paddy Tally, Peter Canavan and Fermanagh man Mike Mc Gurn will be offering their particular insight into the world of the modern Gaelic Footballer. I happened to listen to an interview with Mc Gurn on Highland Radio on Sunday and he was quite superb as he told his story of how he came to be where he is today. It all sounds like fascinating stuff but it looks as if Jimmy Mc Guinness is intent on laying down a marker as manager and leading Donegal football out of the dark ages.