Friday 30 September 2016

Trying to make all teams equal would 'kill the GAA'

Published 05/08/2015 | 02:30

Paraic Duffy: 'We're not going to make Dublin into five or six counties or Kerry into two or three or Donegal into two or three. I think the debate has lost its sense of perspective'
Paraic Duffy: 'We're not going to make Dublin into five or six counties or Kerry into two or three or Donegal into two or three. I think the debate has lost its sense of perspective'

GAA director-general Paraic Duffy has hit out at detractors of the football championship format, insisting some commentators have "lost their perspective".

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The August Bank Holiday weekend, which has often signposted the start of the 'real' race for Sam Maguire in the past, produced disappointing fare - prompting more debate on whether the current championship structure best serves the needs of counties.

All four games played at HQ over last weekend were one-sided, with Tyrone's seven point win over Sligo the closest in terms of winning margin.

Even then, the Red Hand had the game all but wrapped up on the hour mark when they led by double scores (0-20 to 0-10).

But Duffy believes some people are missing the point. Leaving aside Kildare's mauling at the hands of Kerry, which Duffy believes means the Lilies "should look at themselves", he feels instead that the achievement of the likes of Fermanagh in making the last eight and Sligo in reaching the last 12 should be lauded.

"We should be applauding Sligo and Fermanagh and Monaghan for getting here (Croke Park) based on the resources they have," Duffy countered at the launch of the 20th annual Fexco Asian Gaelic Games, which will be held in Shanghai on October 24-25.

"That's the reality. We're not going to remodel the GAA to make everybody equal because then you kill it.

"We're not going to make Dublin into five or six counties or Kerry into two or three or Donegal into two or three. I think the debate has lost its sense of perspective."

Open

The Monaghan native stresses that the GAA's top brass remain open to new ideas on how best to run the championship and agrees that they "need to look at perhaps catering better for the weaker counties".

However, he revealed that a large cohort of players in weaker counties want to remain in the race for Sam Maguire rather than opting for a multi-tiered format.

"If you can come up with a better championship model we're open to do that but I'll tell you - I'm chairman of a small group that was set up arising from Eugene McGee's report, the Football Review Committee," he said.

"And one of the things they asked was that I would chair a small group to see how we could help the weaker counties.

"As part of that process we asked the GPA to put a survey in front of players from the 10, let's say, less successful counties. And we did. The single most favoured option was leave things as they are. It was about 50pc. And then the rest of them suggested different things.

"I don't know if you saw Sean Quigley's tweet on Sunday night in response to Ciaran Whelan, he said you play for days like that.

"Of course there's a legitimate debate but I think it's gone over the top. It's the same argument year after year. We've asked for suggestions for the Championship format, we're open to suggestions.

"I presume we'll come forward with some sort of tweaking or an alternative but I'll tell you there's no guarantee that it'll be accepted because if you start excluding people all over the place, the bottom eight, the bottom 12, just watch the reaction you get from the players, never mind the counties."

Duffy pointed to the example of the Tommy Murphy Cup, which was phased out of existence after it met with a lukewarm response from the counties it was designed to help.

"The players didn't want to play in it, that's why it fell apart. To come up with a model that the players in those counties are happy with, that's not easy," he said.

"The point I'm making is, with sport, unless you have a model like the NFL - and that doesn't always work- you're never going to come up with the (right) model. Resources will always come into it. It's the same in all sports.

"So you're never going to come (to a situation) where everybody is going to compete. You're never going to make Dublin equal with Longford or Leitrim, or Monaghan or Carlow - it's not going to happen. Just accept that.

"And enjoy the days when the likes of Sligo come through, or Fermanagh. Enjoy them and value them.

"You put the All Blacks against Canada in the Rugby World Cup and see what happens.

"Will there be a big clamour for change in the Rugby World Cup and get them all out of it? Second-tier competition? I'll be waiting for those articles, looking forward to it."

Irish Independent

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