Gaelic footballers maintain opposition to proposed Championship split
Published 10/11/2015 | 02:30
The vast majority of inter-county Gaelic footballers still do not want to participate in a 'B' competition or any All-Ireland qualifier series that divides the 32 participating counties.
With the GAA's Management and Central Council due to meet this weekend to discuss the proposals that have been submitted, the Gaelic Players Association have been back in touch with its membership in relation to the document they placed in the public domain last month regarding inter-county football competition reform.
It is one of 18 proposals submitted ahead of next weekend's meeting that will decide on the next step for any move towards reform.
Fifteen of the 18 proposals incorporate a 'B' Championship, the majority seeking a straight split to provide 16 teams in each competition once the provisional championships are completed. Others have 20/12 and 24/8 divides.
Another proposal has a system whereby Division 3 and 4 teams that don't advance beyond provincial preliminary rounds and quarter-finals play off in a separate competition with the winners re-entering the mainstream competition at the quarter-final stage.
The GPA proposal is one of two that provides for no split, their plans based around eight groups of four in a qualifier with winners advancing to a last 16 and second and third placed in the group playing off to join them.
They have designed their plan on the premise that players want more games and less training at a particular time of the year with a big emphasis on more action at provincial grounds and creating a bigger window for club games.
Longford footballer Michael Quinn, one of the architects of the GPA document, has re-affirmed a desire among players to remain part of any mainstream championship despite the overwhelming sentiment among the proposals for a split.
"You would question the value of a 'B' Championship and whether it would be devalued in any way. That was the feeling during the deliberations. It came across all the surveys," said Quinn.
"There is a divide at the moment and the gap seems to be getting bigger. But a 'B' Championship allows for that gap to increase instead of doing something to bring those counties on to a higher level.
"It wouldn't hold the same value as a full-tier competition. Most counties are in agreement that change is required. There are always going to be issues.
"But that's where the GPA's proposal is different in that they listened to the players," he said. "You would wonder with a 'B' competition if the same support from the GAA would be there," he said.
GPA spokesman Seán Potts has said that 31 out of 32 football squads support their proposal. "They endorse our proposals and our proposals don't contain that condition (of a 'B' competition).
"We have some players who probably feel it is an option for them but the majority would still be opposed to it. They wanted to participate in the competition proper, accepting that when they were gone they were gone.
"We would look at it (recent review) as a strong endorsement for our proposal and we will be highlighting that at Central Council and subsequently during any debate."
Counties had until yesterday to submit their observations on the 18 proposals. It is expected that they will be distilled down to a much smaller number reflecting the best and most concrete of those submitted.
With the discussion paper on fixtures and player burnout taking centre stage, it remains to be seen if a firm proposal can be established in time for the 2017 Championship.