Key motions on burnout hang in the balance
Steady support for 'mark' and earlier All-Ireland final dates but minor and U-21 proposals face opposition
Published 24/02/2016 | 02:30
If there was a reminder required about the need to address the dangers of burnout in Gaelic games, it came on the doorstep of the man who has crafted the latest set of proposals aimed at tackling the issue.
Director-general Paraic Duffy may only be drawing from proposals already framed in seven reports that date back to 2004 and the Competition Review Task Force Report, but his message from the top has been crystal clear, especially in the last few days, about the requirement to address arguably the GAA's biggest issue.
So given his input into the motions that aim to tighten fixtures and ease the load on a particular genre of player, he is sure to have raised an eyebrow at news that a young footballer, not only from his own county but his own Scotstown club, played matches on three successive days last weekend.
Conor McCarthy, one of their brightest prospects, played half a Sigerson Cup semi-final last Friday for UCD, almost a full game in Saturday's final against DCU before turning out for Monaghan against Tyrone in an U-21 tournament the next day.
This time his load was reduced to 45 minutes or so but still, the requirement to turn out three days running asked a very obvious question.
It is this very situation that the director-general surely has in mind when he puts forward the argument of the need to change the conditions for young men aged 17 to 21.
McCarthy's situation isn't unique. In Limerick the week before last, hurlers Richie English and Darragh O'Donovan had three games in four days between the county's senior side, their club U-21s in the local championship and with Mary Immaculate in the Fitzgibbon Cup. A third player, Tom Morrissey, played three times in five days, with the prospect for all three of 11 games across February's 29 days.
The Limerick Leader was estimating earlier this month that a young dual player, Gearoid Hegarty, was facing 13 games across all codes in a one-month period, but this has since been pared back with UL's failure to make the Sigerson Cup final last weekend. Still the prospect of a game every three days over the period remains high.
However, no motion to Congress this weekend could avoid the situation these players face as third-level competition remains intact.
The headline motion calling for the U-21 inter-county football competition to be replaced by a summer-based U-20 competition which precludes players who have already been listed on senior Championship squads would help in a case like McCarthy's.
But that move to change is facing opposition, especially in the southern half of the country, where Clare and Limerick are opposing it; Cork have opted for the status quo but in a surprise move Tipperary voted 26-10 last night to give support despite the executive proposing retention because of recent success in the grade which has aided their development.
Waterford will wait until the weekend before making a decision while Kerry's Congress delegation, despite a strong view from their meeting last week that they should oppose it, will make a final call at the weekend.
Further north, support for an U-20 grade is stronger with backing from big voting blocks like Dublin, Wexford, Meath and Galway, with Kildare and Mayo also keen for change.
Among those opposed are Laois and Leitrim, whose PRO Declan Bohan said the feeling from their meeting on Monday night was that it "militated" against weaker counties.
"A good U-21 on a senior squad couldn't play and he'd be more influential than a player at U-21 level in a weaker county. We just wouldn't haven't resources," he said.
Backing for trimming minor inter-county football back to U-17 to avoid exam pressures and clear up more time for club activity is winning better support, however.
Again, Clare, Cork and Limerick are opposed, as are Galway, but Tipperary voted for change last night, while Kerry will reserve a final decision but for this Laois and Leitrim are supportive.
Both motions need a two-thirds majority. A lot of Ulster counties have yet to decide, while the overseas vote will be influential and quite often backs central proposals.
There's a strong possibility that the motion asking for the dates of the All-Ireland finals to be brought forward two weeks will pass, though Galway, Cork and Tipperary are opposed because of reduced promotional value and club pressure. Unlike the minor and U-21 motions, Limerick are supportive.
Replays for all games except All-Ireland and provincial finals may also be a thing of the past, with Mayo, Wexford, Dublin, Meath, Galway, Kildare, Tipperary and Laois and Limerick in favour but Waterford, Cork and Leitrim are against.
There's good news for proponents of the introduction of a 'mark' for kick-outs caught cleanly between the two '45s'.
Despite some speculation that the motion being put forward by the standing rules committee might be withdrawn, support is very strong from the counties that have already deliberated, with Dublin, Kerry, Wexford, Meath, Kildare, Galway, Tipperary, Limerick, Laois, Mayo and Leitrim all likely to approve.
Galway are the only county so far to declare support a 'B' Championship, a proposal that is now unlikely to be put before delegates, but interestingly Leitrim will back both Carlow and Roscommon motions for Championship overhaul.
Kerry want the retention of an All-Ireland junior football championship, Galway want to keep an All-Ireland intermediate hurling championship, while Tipperary will oppose both motions to abolish them.