The Donegal manager, who led his side to promotion to Division 1 and a Division 2 title earlier this year, feels the plan to change the top two divisions into a single competition with eight teams in both Division 1A and 1B has tarnished their achievement.
“I’m very, very disappointed,” said McGuinness about the plans which will be voted on by Central Council on Saturday.
“I am gutted for our own players. We took every game on its merits, we worked as hard as we could to get over the line in every one of those games. We qualified for the league final, went to Croke Park and won the final. All the respect to the teams coming out of Division 3 (Louth and Westmeath), but they can now end up playing Cork, Kerry and Dublin next year and we worked so hard this year to try and manufacture that situation for ourselves.
“We have a young group of players looking forward to being in a new league, to playing fresh teams, fresh venues, fresh opposition and it would have left next year for us very enjoyable.”
The Glenties man said the news of the proposals by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) came as a blow as they prepare to face Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday week.
The plans would see the top 16 counties as they finished in this year’s leagues separated into two with the remaining counties playing in Division 2 and 3. The top two teams in Division 1A and 1B will play in the league semi-finals with the bottom side in both being relegated to Division 2. The two Division 1 groups will also be redrawn every two years to try and prevent the same counties playing each other season on season.
From a more general perspective, McGuinness can’t see how the recommendations being put forward will improve elite Gaelic football or the competition itself.
“We were all looking forward to it and it is breaking now just two weeks out from our semi-final against Dublin. ”That is a negative from the point of view of our fellows because they put a lot into it, they were promoted and now there is a significant gulf between Division 3 and the top three or of four teams in Division 1 and all those teams now are going into a hat and there will be a draw.
“I don’t understand it from the point of view of preparing a team and challenging yourself against the best teams, I don’t understand how it works as in developing football. ”Kerry have won so many All-Irelands and Cork won last year’s All-Ireland, while Dublin have developed to such a level in the last number of years that it is a privilege to play those teams and test yourself against those teams.”
However, McGuinness does not understate the fact Donegal had won the right to play among the best eight teams.
“You need to fight your way up the leagues to get that opportunity and we were lucky enough to do that this year and we were really looking forward to it.
“And now we could be in Omagh again next year, we could be in Kildare, in Laois, and no disrespect to those teams but it is just not what we were planning for and we were looking forward to the other teams.”