Seán Gannon enjoying Eire Óg’s return to Leinster’s top table
But Carlow stalwart not adverse to idea of Tier Two championship for weaker counties
Seán Gannon: “This would be my 12th year with Carlow and there’s not an awful lot of honours after my name so I’d take your hand and all if you gave me an All-Ireland B, or whatever it’s going to be called.” Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
The contradiction of Seán Gannon’s existence isn’t lost on him; an Eire Óg player close to the summit of Leinster club football yet, apparently, not good enough to compete with the top teams at inter-county level.
The versatile Carlow forward wants to make something clear first of all, he isn’t as vexed about the new Tier Two structure as others in the county appear to be.
“This would be my 12th year with Carlow and there’s not an awful lot of honours after my name so I’d take your hand and all if you gave me an All-Ireland B, or whatever it’s going to be called,” explained Gannon.
Yet he can also see where Turlough O’Brien, the Carlow manager – whose son, Darragh, is a club colleague at Eire Óg – is coming from when he says a Tier 2 is ‘tokenism, a sop’ from the GAA.
“When it comes to the two tiers, there’s no way the second tier is going to get a tenth of the attention that the first tier is going to get,” claimed Gannon.
“I wouldn’t feel as strongly against it as other people. And I can guarantee you that anyone in Division Three or Four giving out about it now, if they make the final next summer there won’t be a lot said about it then. We’ll see how it plays out. I’m probably not going to be around a whole lot of years so it’s maybe someone else’s problem, I suppose.”
Right now, the 31-year-old is more interested in making Eire Óg great again. They won five AIB Leinster club titles in the 1990s and can make it six if they beat Ballyboden St Enda’s on Sunday week, a tough assignment admittedly.
With Carlow hurling champions St Mullins also through to this weekend’s provincial final, it’s got the feel of another rising.
Gannon smiles at the comparison as he remembers Carlow’s breakthrough year of 2017 when they played five championship games in the one summer. One of those was against Monaghan and the following year they hosted Tyrone in the qualifiers, games they won’t get to experience in the Tier 2.
“It’s great to be out there in the media a little bit again,” he said.
“With Carlow, the media were speaking about us and we were everywhere, Carlow jerseys started popping up everywhere in town. For years and years we had Kilkenny and Dublin jerseys around town but now every kid is wearing a Carlow jersey. A huge amount of that came from the publicity we received. You can’t underestimate it.”
Gannon accepts that, on paper, this year was a poor year for Carlow as they returned to Division Four and lost both of their championship games. A number of high-profile suspensions hardly helped their cause and Gannon argues that, inside the camp at least, it felt like they were making progress. It’s why he’s sorry to see coach Steven Poacher leave.
“He instilled a belief in us,” said Gannon. “I remember for years the Carlow players themselves expected to lose and that’s not the case now. We’re prouder, we have belief and he instilled that. There’s a lot of Eire Óg players with Carlow and we brought that back to the club.”