Tuesday 24 October 2017

Colm Keys: Black card may be enduring FRC legacy as fixtures plan lacks bite

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Eugene McGee joked that following the release of the second part of the Football Review Committee's findings -- focusing on competitions -- he was going to disappear forever and even write future columns under a pseudonym.

The work of the FRC has clearly weighed down heavily on him and he was glad to be liberated as he walked away from Croke Park.

In that sense there was more of a 'take it or leave it' attitude to the second part of their work. Nothing like the more passionate approach taken to the introduction of a black card to Gaelic football that began its journey on the same day 12 months earlier.

Having won the battle to convince hearts and minds that such a deterrent to cynicism was required for Gaelic football, the FRC may feel they have used up all their credits with Congress delegates, which may explain why their latest report was short on real radicalism.

Pour over the contents of the last 10 to 15 years of annual reports from the two directors general and you will have seen and heard much of it before, with the very notable exception of how to arrive at four groups of eight, a most novel way of reaching their target that protects everything in its current guise and one that might just strike the numerical balance required.

VISION

So they tiptoed gently through the morass of fixtures, competitions and the various layers that organise them.

They have a vision that the season will end in December every year, with All-Ireland club finals completed in the same calendar year, and that everything will take its cue from that.

But there are just too many dependencies to think that this will work easily, or even with a struggle.

Playing all provincial quarter-finals over two successive weekends is fine but will the Ulster Council, who like their 'one a week in May and June' agree to that?

For the same reason that the All-Ireland finals conclude in September, rather than earlier, is the potential for leaving 'free' football weekends in peak season not compressing the shop-window to a wider public?

Can counties really aspire to being at semi-final stage by August with their club championships, especially counties with a strong dual focus?

And do clubs want their championships to be wrapped up that quickly anyway? By that reckoning the majority of club players will be 'done and dusted' in July which is not good for the promotion of the club game either.

Curiously, third-level competition once again remains largely untouched, just as it did with the player burnout task force report in 2007. Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup will still cross paths with U-21 and league competition in February.

Everything is incumbent on enforcement but again that requires an enormous amount of central input. Unless there are proper penalties or very, very good reasons as to why counties don't get games played in May, June and July, these guidelines will be broken much too easily, as they have been in the past.

The FRC insist their white paper is only a baseline and they won't be driving the process to harden its content into motions.

But the domino effect is such that if one segment doesn't succeed many of the others will falter. The black card may well be this group's enduring legacy.

Irish Independent

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