'Moving All-Ireland final dates will benefit clubs'
GAA director-general Páraic Duffy has pointed to "contradictory" statements by the Club Players Association (CPA) who have opted not to endorse Central Council's championship reform motions going before Congress next month.
In a separate development, Duffy confirmed that the motions relating to change will be put to Congress in three parts, one focusing on the introduction of an All-Ireland quarter-final round robin series, the others seeking the conclusion of the championships before the end of August and extra-time for all games with the exception of All-Ireland and provincial finals.
That separation opens the prospect of the earlier championship conclusion and extra-time motions being passed after coming so close last year, especially in light of renewed pressure to introduce reform.
If passed this time, allied to the changes affecting minor and U-21 which were carried at Congress last year, it would really accelerate congestion on the football calendar.
In his report, Duffy acknowledged that the establishment of the CPA was symptomatic of the problems that existed, writing that "we should be concerned that a cohort of players considers it necessary to establish an organisation in order to bring about change."
But in discussions about the report he used the opportunity to challenge elements of the CPA statement, describing his "surprise" at its content and referring to some of it as "strange".
"They say that if these proposals are passed, there'll be no change until 2019 at the earliest. 'By then it could be too late. This needs (to be) sorted now.' If you want to sort it now, why would you park it? The two things appear a little bit contradictory. Now means this year's Congress."
He challenged all three reasons given by the CPA for requesting the GAA to "park" the motion, strongly refuting that it would be "detrimental" to hurling.
"I, for the life of me, cannot see how these proposals are detrimental to hurling," he said, stressing that proposed dates are only a guide and that the All-Ireland hurling final could be played after the football final.
"I would argue very strongly that it's a positive for hurling because of all games. If the All-Ireland championships finish earlier, the club championships would be played off on good pitches.
"We've had a situation where provincial club finals are being played in late November when pitches are heavy which is not conducive to good hurling."
He feels that the production of another report, as suggested by the CPA with the formation of a 'think-tank', would not produce anything that they didn't already know.
And he argued vehemently against the CPA assertion that the proposals don't "fully take on board the need for an agreed fixtures programme for club players, or take account of legitimate concerns raised including club player welfare and well-being, holidays and closed season."
"That's exactly what they take account of. You can absolutely argue, as is their (CPA) right, that they don't go far enough but I don't think it's valid to say that the proposal doesn't take on board things like players' holidays, closed season etc.
"In my opinion having extra-time rather than replays is of huge benefit to clubs.
"Certainly bringing forward the All-Ireland finals is of huge benefit to clubs. So I can't see how they are not supporting those proposals."
Duffy said he welcomed the prospects of proposals from the CPA. "I think it's important that they do that. If there are better proposals out there, we want to hear them."