Monday 26 September 2016

Eugene McGee: You can bet your bottom dollar on these things NOT changing next year

Problems with fixtures and U-21 grade will not be tackled in 2016

Published 28/12/2015 | 02:30

Tyrone’s Mark Kavanagh celebrates after beating Tipperary in this year’s U-21 football final Photo:Sportsfile
Tyrone’s Mark Kavanagh celebrates after beating Tipperary in this year’s U-21 football final Photo:Sportsfile

Making predictions about what will happen next year is all the rage in media circles, which offers a glorious chance for otherwise normal people to make fools of themselves. Having learned from experience to avoid this trap, I will instead predict some things that will NOT happen in the GAA during 2016.

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For a start there will be no change of any significance in the way the GAA runs the All-Ireland football championship. This is despite the demands to do so from rank and file members, the GPA, people from all branches of the media and loads of non-GAA people who always want major change in the GAA but, strangely, don't look for similar adjustments to other sports.

The reason there will be little or no change is a combination of history and conservatism. The history is based on the four provinces as being the cornerstone of the All-Ireland championship which is ironic since it was our friends across the water who foisted the four uneven provinces on this country in the first place.

The conservatism applies to the vast majority of GAA people who have rarely considered change in the championship simply because they know no other way.

Many other bodies such as the Catholic Church share the same mentality.

So there will be no change in the championship structure in 2016.

And there will NOT be a surprise winner of the Sam Maguire Cup next year either.

Reality

There are 33 teams entered in the competition but in reality only four or five have a chance of winning the Big One - Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, one team from Ulster and, possibly, Cork if they hit a good day.

The U-21 football championship will NOT be scrapped next year either despite GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghail and Director General Pauric Duffy both supporting the idea.

As I have often stated, GAA people never want to get rid of any competition and instead they keep on adding more.

But there is a glorious chance to change the structure of the U-21 grade. For example, it could be played on an All-Ireland open draw basis on week days during the summer and could even be graded into two groups of 16 teams.

There will NOT be a presidential election in the GAA next year but there will be plenty of canvassing for the one that takes place in February 2017.

Already Martin Skelly from Longford is setting out his stall. Last week he came out publicly against a proposal from Dublin's John Horan - another presidential candidate and current chairman of the Leinster Council - that the GAA should build a new stadium with a capacity of up to 40,000 at a location close to the M50.

Other potential candidates include Frank Burke (Galway), Martin McAviney (Monaghan), Sean Walsh (Kerry), Robert Frost (Clare) and Seamus Howlin (Wexford) so watch out for all these lads turning up in unusual places in Ireland and around the world in 2016 as they chase those elusive votes.

There will NOT be any change during 2016 in the timing of the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup competitions for the months of January/February despite extensive demands for change.

The third-level exams timetable simply prevents that and there is no room for argument because of their importance for career prospects of students. Overcrowding of fixtures will have to be solved some other way.

There will NOT be any attempt to get rid of Sky's live television coverage in 2016. Once Sky get involved in a sport they never go away and it will be so with the GAA too despite the strong opposition around the country to the Sky deal. And television rights are not a matter for GAA Congress - it is dealt with by Central Council members.

In 2016 there will NOT be any extra common sense applied to fixture-making in the GAA. Nonsensical fixtures like Dublin travelling to Kilkenny to play their first Leinster championship game outside Croke Park in nine years will remain.

The game should have been fixed for Portlaoise or Tullamore regardless of whether Dublin's opponents are Laois or Wicklow, who meet in the first round.

So proponents of major change in the GAA for the coming year can forget about it. The status quo is backboned by outdated structures that hold back new initiatives and that also will NOT change in 2016.

Women's extra involvement having positive effect

Women are gradually taking over the GAA, it seems!

I see that after the recent AGM of the Moorefield club in Newbridge no less than eight of the 10 officer positions are held by women which must be a record. That includes the chairperson, secretary, assistant secretary, treasurer, PRO, registrar and Irish officer.

During this recent period of female officers in charge, Moorefield has been enjoying one of its most successful eras.

That should surely strike a chord with the rest of GAA affairs in Kildare - maybe that is the answer to the county's recent travails on the playing field at senior level - more women and lots of them.

And there has been another huge advance for female participation in the GAA with the announcement last week of the first lady to be appointed as referee of a senior male inter-county game.

She is Maggie Farrelly from the Laragh United club, not far from Cavan town, and she will officiate at the McKenna Cup game next Sunday between Fermanagh and St Mary's College in Enniskillen.

Maggie has already acted as linesperson and took charge of the Cavan U-21 football final.

Now I am looking forward to her appointment for a Tyrone-Derry Ulster championship game in the near future - the ultimate test!

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