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FRC 'not radical enough'


Cork footballer Valerie Mulcahy with Dessie Farrell, CEO, GPA, left, and Richard Evans, Sales Director, OPRO. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Cork footballer Valerie Mulcahy with Dessie Farrell, CEO, GPA, left, and Richard Evans, Sales Director, OPRO. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Cork footballer Valerie Mulcahy with Dessie Farrell, CEO, GPA, left, and Richard Evans, Sales Director, OPRO. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell reckons the Football Review Committee's (FRC) recommendations for the restructuring of the All-Ireland SFC are "not radical enough".

Though he broadly praised the report, describing it as "a very good document" and "a catalyst for further explorations and investigation", Farrell questioned whether "the sacred cows" of the GAA – namely the provincial competitions – need to be sacrificed in order to add to the attraction and fairness of football's flagship competition.

"I think we need to move it on and ask some of the hard questions here," he insisted.

"Do we really want change to the Championship? And if we do, what sacred cows have to be removed from the equation? So we have to start putting the gun to our heads a little bit.

"If you were to ask me – this is my own personal opinion – it's probably not radical enough in terms of the provincial competitions remaining part of the All-Ireland Series," Farrell continued, though he also accepted that opinion within the current inter-county playing fraternity was widely divided on the subject.

"A lot of players want a change of format, but yet they don't want to do down the provincial competition because the level of ambition for a lot of players is ... they fear that's as far as they can possibly attain, given the county they're playing with and the level they're operating at.

"So in terms of goals and objectives for players, the provincial one is more reachable than probably an All-Ireland, so you have to be mindful of that outlook as well."



Farrell described the FRC's method of ensuring four eight-team provincial Championships as "innovative", but questioned whether its impact would be substantial.

"Is it going to change, fundamentally, the provincial competition? I don't think so. And some people like the provincial competition and think it is very worthwhile and attractive in its own right.

"A lot of people don't and that is why there was a clamour to perhaps explore the idea of the 'Champions League' format as an option."

Farrell was also sceptical of the FRC's conclusion that dotting club matches around the newly-designated inter-county weekends would reduce the exploding team preparation costs for county boards already under intense financial pressures.

Pointing to the recently published findings of a study by the GAA's Medical Scientific and Welfare Committee, Farrell pointed out: "One of their key findings was that there is a far greater risk of getting injured in match situations than there is in training. And previous to that, the thinking was, 'Sure you're training. You may as well be playing matches'.

"Well actually in terms of injury and risk of injury, there is a greater risk playing matches. Again, you put yourself in a manager's position and they're doing well, you're running the risk of players getting injured.



"So are we going to accommodate more players on the county panel to facilitate that? And if we do that, we're moving from the 24 or 30 or that training panel into 36, 38, 40 players.

"And then you're into the issue of savings because on the one hand, this report says county boards will make a lot of savings because you're breaking the county sequences.

"But then on the other hand, you will have to bring in more players to facilitate that due to the risk of injury. And that begs the question as to who can adequately cope with that?

"There is more depth in Dublin, for instance, so does that mean Dublin or Cork or Kerry have an unfair advantage, where they have greater numbers of players operating at that standard?"

Accepting that the second report was "always going to be that bit more difficult" to formulate than the FRC's first, which contained changes to playing rules only and forced significant change, Farrell bemoaned the reality that significant reform in the GAA was being mitigated by the traditional processes of change.



He said: "Overall, one of the big issues, and I am talking about the GAA family in its entirety, is that we seem to temper any blue-sky thinking with a sense of, 'Jesus that will never get through Congress', or 'that might fail at that particular hurdle'.

"And I think that has an influence in our bigger thinking, which is unfortunate but is the reality."