Fixture delays may cost clubs provincial spot
COUNTY champions face being excluded from the club provincial series unless local schedules are completed by a specified date as the GAA try to find ways of ending the fixture chaos which is becoming increasingly common at this time of year.
Uncertainty over the availability of players for the International Rules series, plus alterations to provincial club schedules because of the late completion of county championships, dominated the GAA scene in recent weeks.
Now, GAA director general Paraic Duffy has thrown down a challenge to the provincial councils to take a tough stance on the late conclusion of county championships.
"The way to solve the problem is for provincial councils to say at the start of the year: 'these are the dates for our club championships and we're not going to change them. Come hell or high water, we're going to play the first round on the second Sunday of October or whenever. If you haven't your county championship finished by then you won't have a team in the provincials'. That would soon change it," he said.
Duffy has little sympathy for many of the counties whose county championships finish late.
He said that only four counties remain in the All-Ireland senior football race after the August Bank Holiday weekend, and while they may have some excuse for later finishes, the rest do not.
"I know that more counties are running their championships on a second chance or league basis, but that's an aside," he said.
"The facts of the matter are that most counties should have their championship over earlier.
"I'd make allowances for the last four but, really, the other 28 have no excuse.
"I can't see why some of them are playing their championships in the middle of October.
"It's back to the old story that some counties go week after week during the summer not playing championship games because of the senior inter-county team."
Commenting on the difficulties encountered by players who found themselves in a club versus country bind in recent weeks, Duffy said that club had to come first.
"I've always been of the view that at this time of year a player's commitment has to be to his club," he said.
"A club championship is hugely important and I think we're going to look to avoid what happened this year.
"We'll have to look at a situation whereby if players are not free of club championship games with a couple of weeks to go to the International Rules, they probably can't travel.
"We don't want a repetition of what happened this year. It's not fair to ask counties to put the championship back three or four weeks.
"On the one hand, we complain about inter-county managers not releasing players for club games.
"I don't think that we can do that and then, at national level, say you have to call off club games because of International Rules.
"The International Rules series is important but it has to be kept in perspective."
Reacting to the AFL's decision to consider video-based score detection systems rather than Hawk-Eye, which is to be trialled in Gaelic games, Duffy said there were marked differences between the two organisations.
All of the AFL's games have top-of-the range TV coverage, while only selected GAA matches get the full treatment.
"For us to provide the technology for video at all our championship games across the board would be far more expensive than Hawk-Eye. We've done the figures on it," he said.
"Our big concern is that every decision in terms of scores has to be correct.
"You can't have games decided on an erroneous decision. We'll see how Hawk-Eye works over the two-year trial period.
"Hawk-Eye has been used in cricket and tennis.
"Beyond that, soccer is looking at it -- and other systems -- but they've had an awful lot of bother getting to the point where they're absolutely certain that the technology is 100pc reliable.
"We're trying as a small organisation to do that, so the two-year trial will hopefully work for us -- but I don't see us going the video route. I don't think we'd have the resources to do that."
Commenting on the decision to change the Allianz Hurling League format twice since the end of last season, Duffy said that if enough interested parties thought wrong options had been taken, then there was nothing wrong in revisiting them.
However, he wants formats to apply for longer than has often been the case.
"I accept it would have been much better for the image of the association if we had provided a structure for the league on a long-term basis for the next five years and said 'that's the way it's going to be'. But there is a particular problem around hurling," he said.
On the issue of changes to playing rules, he explained that proposals will come before Central Council next month.
One area which is being examined centres on how to reduce the number of fouls and stoppages in football. The Rules Committee have met three times so far and will finalise their proposals shortly.