O'Neill to maintain 'sideline' pressure
Published 14/11/2012 | 05:00
GAA president Liam O'Neill is adamant that the Association's administration can not bow to any pressure that may be exerted by managers over plans to curb the number of personnel on sidelines during matches.
Proposals are in the pipeline to control the creeping chaos which is once again affecting sidelines during games, where there have been a number of unseemly incidents of late.
Last Sunday O'Neill was in Armagh's Athletic Grounds where St Eunan's joint manager Eamonn O'Boyle was pushed to the ground and was left dazed by the impact in the early stages of the Ulster quarter-final against Crossmaglen Rangers.
O'Neill said he counted 45 people, including officials, within the pitch parameters at one stage during the match.
He says his choice would be to take everyone off the sideline and make the pitch "sacrosanct" for players and match officials.
"I am not sure how far we will get on it," he conceded.
"The argument will be made that we are going too far, but I counted 45 people on the sideline in front of the stand in Armagh, including the eight or so people in the tunnel."
O'Neill does believe, however, that the relevant GAA bodies must have the courage of their convictions to push through proposals.
When they previously tried to thin out the sideline in late 2006, a group of influential managers successfully lobbied to have much of the status quo restored.
New proposals are expected to be discussed at next week's Management Committee meeting and at December's Central Council meeting.
"I am encouraging our Management Committee and Central Council to take responsibility, so rather than having sections of the organisation making policy we are taking responsibility," he said.
"I have laid out my stall quite clearly on this: I don't want anybody on the sideline. We have to come to a stage where the sideline is sacrosanct. I see no advantage in people being on the sideline.
"I said that long before that incident happened (in Armagh), long before the incidents in the All-Ireland finals and long before we had the incident in Clare.
"What I will say is that most of the people involved in those incidents are, in their normal lives, great people.
"But, whatever happens on the sideline, they don't show themselves to be the great people they are. I would say we are doing them a favour. Let's get them off the sideline. Put them in the stand."
O'Neill accepts that those with functions to provide water and hurleys from pitch-side would be catered for in any new arrangement.
"I have said all along that I want just one person on the line. That is enough. The manager doesn't have to (be there). It might suit the manager to be in the stand," he said.
"Most people know that if they are not hydrated going on to the field then you won't last the game.
"We won't stop access to water, neither will we stop people getting hurls to players. That can be taken care of."
O'Neill accepts that controls may be more difficult to put in place at club games, where seating and dugout arrangements are different.
"Most clubs have a fence of some sort around the field," he said.
"But there is no reason why there couldn't be a rope and you stand outside the rope.
"Nobody should be allowed out on the field. I have said this for a long time and I am in a position now where I can at least suggest that we do it."
O'Neill was in Croke Park yesterday to help promote a premium ticket initiative for 2013 that will see 100 Davin End tickets sold off at half-price (€500) for the year.
Croke Park celebrates 100 years since the signing of the deeds and naming of the historic venue took place and there will be a number of events to commemorate it.
"This is the launch of a series of initiatives to bring people to Croke Park," said O'Neill.
"It's 100 years of Croke Park and we want to celebrate that – and we want to fill the place as much as possible.
"We don't want spare seats. We're aiming at our own customers, we want to reward our own customers.
"We also want to entice people who have never been to Croke Park to be part of the Croke Park experience. We have a very innovative sales team in the Priomh section."