Wednesday 28 September 2016

Eugene McGee: GAA's shameful 'B' proposal just a waste of everybody's time

Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30

Meath’s Graham Reilly leaves the field during yesterday’s O’Byrne Cup final after picking up an injury. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
Meath’s Graham Reilly leaves the field during yesterday’s O’Byrne Cup final after picking up an injury. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

The Whinge Factor that is ever present in all aspects of GAA activity has been ramped up dramatically in the past week since Central Council discussed proposals that the GAA might make major changes in how senior football competitions are organised.

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Whinging has been part of the DNA of the GAA for a lifetime and that will not change.

How could it when we have over 2,000 clubs in Ireland and abroad, 32 county boards, four provincial councils involving around 50 very important people - in their own eyes at least - a Central Council of about 50 more very important people and on top of all that a large number of high-powered committees in Croke Park whose members, hundreds of them, are drawn from the four corners of the country.

In addition there are a plethora of committees in every provincial council, county board and club.

Based on elected administrators, the GAA must have the most highly organised sports body in the world. And it often seems that every individual person of responsibility has their own idea about how the GAA should be run.

Is it any wonder that getting unanimity on anything is impossible in the GAA ?

Problem

The recent Central Council meeting merely highlights the problem. It was the president who initiated a national discussion during the past 12 months about possible changes.

When we consider that all those bodies listed above were due to be consulted in some way, the result was inevitable.

Confusion, lack of interest, contrary views, vested interests, bitter rival views, and a whole lot more. I have often said the GAA is a wonderful organisation to be so successful considering the manner in which it conducts some of its important business, and this is a good example.

Opening the GAA at large to possible change is always a recipe for disaster because you will never get a decision. Instead a small number of choices, no more than two or three, should be presented to the organisation's leaders for them to make a decision.

Asking hundreds of people for their opinions simply doesn't work.

The decision to treat the eight weakest football counties in Division 4 as some sort of pariahs in a 'B' championship, and be left at the mercy of the large, richer counties, was shameful.

The question of having a second-tier All-Ireland has been trashed to death by an army of people who do not even address the matter with basic common sense.

In all sport, teams of lesser standard normally seek to improve by playing against some opponents who are better than they are. This inspires the weak links to improve and get better. Playing the weakest eight counties in an All-Ireland secondary competition among themselves is the exact opposite of that.

On the other hand, I have heard people from every Division 4 county last week complaining they were being prevented from playing for the Sam Maguire - they were not, because the first round of the provincial championship is part of the Sam Maguire.

On the bigger issue of the All-Ireland competition, it is sad to see so many smart people wasting their time on futility.

There will be no change in the provincial championships for the foreseeable future - full stop.

There will be no Champions League-style All-Ireland format, ditto. Therefore discussion on these topics right now is a compete waste of time.

Even the GPA, who carried out a player-only survey, told us that about half the players want to retain the provincial championship - even though they wanted Champions League also, something that is impossible to achieve.

Major change in the GAA never happens overnight, so the many people who want change should be studying how championship structures could gradually evolve over a period of five to 10 years.

That applies to the people who run the GAA, the GPA and the ordinary people who are the backbone of the organisation, regardless of elected officers or inter-county players.

The GAA is for everybody - when will the vested interests, including provincial councils, accept this basic truth?

Fond memories of the days when O'Byrne Cup success was a springboard to greater things

The O'Byrne Cup final in the distant past had a special place in Leinster football following its foundation in 1954.

Offaly were the first winners, paving the way for the Faithful County's march to national glory a few years later.

When Longford won it for the first time in 1965 it was a golden era of football in that county, and a Leinster title and National League victory followed soon after.

In my own time Offaly beat Dublin in a final before about 10,000 in Parnell Park in 1981 prior to winning the All-Ireland the year after. The big difference then was that the competition was played pre-championship rather than being steamrolled through in January.

Yesterday, we had a huge crowd in Longford considering it was January. The first half was like an exhibition game, for while Meath had more or less their best team out, Longford rested some of their leading lights.

That's the way it has to be when you are a small county because the Division 3 opener next Sunday is the most important game of the week. They played a lot of ring-a-ring-a-rosy short passing stuff in the first half against the wind and did not achieve much as regards scoring.

Meath, by contrast, went for route one and after 15 minutes they had lofted over five excellent, long-range points, with Graham Reilly setting the standard.

Cillian O'Sullivan, returning after two years out with back problems, gave a brilliant performance of sharp, intelligent play.

The final margin of six points indicates the gap between Division 2 where Meath are and Division 3 where Longford reside for the next 12 weeks.

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