Monday 16 January 2017

Next three months crucial to players' futures

Published 14/11/2015 | 02:30

The big challenge facing Duffy and ó Fearghail is to convince the GAA membership that the changes are necessary and that if they are accepted, they will work (Stock image)
The big challenge facing Duffy and ó Fearghail is to convince the GAA membership that the changes are necessary and that if they are accepted, they will work (Stock image)

It may be the closed season on the GAA's inter-county's circuit but it's very much open for business in an area that will have a massive impact on the future of the Associations's fixtures' programme.

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In fact, the period between today and the end of Congress weekend in February could produce more structural changes than at any one time in the GAA's history.

An over-exaggeration? Absolutely not. If all of Páraic Duffy's were to be accepted, nine inter-county competitions would be changed to some degree, including the abolition of three (U-21FC, JFC, IHC) and a change of age at minor level.

The other four (SFC, SHC and Allianz FL) relate to timing changes. However, there could be other alterations to the senior football championship as no fewer than 18 proposals for an amended format, devised by counties and the GPA, have been submitted to Croke Park.

They, in addition to the Duffy package, will come before today's Central Council meeting. No decisions will be taken but the means of advancing the process will be settled.

Duffy and GAA president, Aogán ó Fearghail will visit the provinces in the coming weeks, explaining the rationale behind the proposals designed to help eradicate burnout among young players and improve the lot of club players, who are being driven to the depths of frustration by the fractured games' schedule.

Some of the corrective measures are radical, including scrapping the U-21 football championship and lowering the age for minor grade.

The big challenge facing Duffy and ó Fearghail is to convince the GAA membership that the changes are necessary and that if they are accepted, they will work.

Some of them are worthwhile but are they necessary? Ultimately, burnout and dysfunctional club fixtures' structures are caused by bad administration, and not just by county boards either.

Clubs who whine about the set-up in their particular county seem to forget than the administration is obliged to act on their instructions.

So if they demand that more club games are played during the summer, the top table has to implement it. Despite that, you often get the impression that clubs have no say in the running of affairs.

Whatever the background, the reality is that the GAA now faces into a crucial three months in terms of shaping its fixtures' structure.

Duffy has produced a document, based on the finding of no fewer than eight reports, delivered over the past 11 years. He has challenged those who oppose them to offer alternative ideas, rather than simply knocking his plan.

The danger is that not enough people will engage with the process and that ultimately proposals will be accepted or rejected for the wrong reasons. It has happened before and could happen again.

One thing is certain. Change has to happen because the present system is broken beyond repair.

Irish Independent

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