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Thursday 8 December 2016

Lillis: The Club game has been disrespected

Inter-county scene is stale says former Laois supremo

Mick Lillis’ Palatine take on St Vincent’s on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile
Mick Lillis’ Palatine take on St Vincent’s on Sunday. Pic: Sportsfile

Mick Lillis says the inter-county season has "gone stale" and that everything before the final stages of the All-Ireland series has become little more than "a sideshow."

Lillis spent a single season this year in charge of Laois after successful club stints with both Portlaoise and Carlow's Palatine, whom he managed to a second consecutive county title last month.

In that period, he detected a growing apathy amongst players and supporters with the entire inter-county scene, one he feels is unlikely now to subside without immediate administrative action.

"To be honest with you, the whole football Championship at senior county level - and maybe at club level as well, but less so - there's only two or three teams that can win it," he told the Herald ahead of Sunday's Leinster club SFC quarter-final meeting with St Vincent's in Dr Cullen Park.

"The rest is a sideshow. I think the general public are beginning to see that.

"They're staying away in their numbers. Attendances are falling every year for the last three or four years.

"Unless it's re-invigorated in some shape or form…I see a lot of apathy out there, both from players and supporters. But more from supporters."

There are, he suggests, simple remedies to energise great public interest, "but the dinosaurs won't go for it."

The monotony of the provincial Championships has, Lillis insists, made a large chunk of the inter-county calendar "stale."

"The only way is to invigorate it. You can imagine if Armagh had to travel to Kerry to play the first round of the Championship. Or if Tyrone were hosting Dublin in Omagh.

"You would have to say that games like that would be mouth-watering. Just even for the supporters alone."

"But it's gone so stale. The provincial Championships. The same teams playing in the same venues every year. There's nothing exciting about it. Nothing new."

His experiences have forced Lillis to appreciate the club scene to an even greater level.

"Players in Carlow…I don't know how ambitious they are, but they love their football," he points out.

"They absolutely love it. They're passionate GAA people.

"You wouldn't have as many people playing football in Carlow as you would have in Kilmacud Crokes or Ballyboden.

Intense

"But it doesn't take away from the fact that they love their game. And they love playing their game.

"And the local Championship is as intense a rivalry as you'll get anywhere.

"Really, that's the beauty of the game. And to be honest, the local Championship is where the real GAA is. The county Championship is the icing on the cake, in some ways.

"But intrinsically, the GAA is the bedrock of most communities. And the club Championship has probably been disrespected a little bit.

"But it's the best place to be for GAA, in my opinion."

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