GAA Proposal Much Ado About Nothing - Almost
The good and the great of GAA administration, ie the Central Council, assembled in Croke Park at the weekend to decide what they would do about revamping the football championships arising from consultation that has taken place around the various counties in recent months.
If course the issues had been throttled at source in most cases when the word came from on high that there would be no change in the provincial championships, no proper All-Ireland for the weaker counties and no champions league style championship, to the dismay of many of the younger population.
What we have been left with is a very convoluted report on events on Saturday that the average GAA person will find very difficult to grasp. The one clear proposal was that the Under-21 football championship as we have known it could be scrapped and replaced by an U-19 grade - provided of course Congress agrees by a two thirds majority to do that and don't hold your breath on that one. This new competition would be played off in June and July from 2018 onwards by straight knockout but we are not told if that will mean and All-Ireland knockout as opposed to the present lob-sided four provincial championships.
Minor players will not be allowed enter the U-20 competition nor will any player who is on the county senior championship panel that year. The big plus of course is that burnout will be helped by removing the U-21 grade and all the trappings that go with it from being played in the early spring as at present.
At senior level the proposal is that the Division 4 counties will only play in their provincial championships and NOT in the All-Ireland Qualifiers. Instead there would be a separate championship for the eight Div 4 teams and the winner would be allowed into the Qualifiers the following year. My own proposal which I had submitted was that there should be a proper 16-team secondary All-Ireland competition wit the final as curtain raiser to the All-Ireland final but what is now proposed is a pointless exercise.
Elsewhere the senior All-Ireland competition remains mostly as is but there will be at least twelve less counties taking part in the Qualifiers if the Division 4 suggestion goes ahead which should help the club scene.
The Central Council wants to confine replays to just nine games, the provincial senior and All-Ireland finals only, in an effort to prevent the disruption of club games arising from replays at county level. This could cost the GAA a lot of money and it will be interesting to see if Congress delegates agree to do that.
When large administrative bodies in the GAA assemble, decision-making is very often carried out in a haphazard and less than methodical manner and what happened in Saturday is typical. Some of the proposals are very long drawn out and open to further options. In general when one wants to get something past a GAA Congress the points at issue need to be brief, very precise and leave no room for amendments or other variations from the original proposal. That's what happened when Sean Kelly proposed the opening of Croke Park for other sports and also when the Black Card debate was passed a couple of years ago.