GAA director-general Paraic Duffy raised many interesting points in his annual report this week
Paraic Duffy believes that inter-county players have a valid point when claiming that they could not be expected to play a championship game on a Friday evening after working a full day, but insists that there could be no question of being paid for loss of earnings if they took the day off.
FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER
"Such compensation would be in breach of our amateur status rules," he writes.
Meanwhile, Michael Delaney expressed disappointment that the FRC did not address the possibility of Friday night games.
Martin Breheny: The GAA authorities fear that if they slot Friday night games into the championship schedule, they will open the way to demands for payment for lost earnings if a day has to be taken off work. It's a row they will carefully avoid which means that Friday night championship action is off the agenda – for now at least.
It still seems a pity that a few games can't be played on Friday evenings. Surely that would be possible if players knew months in advance that they would be required for one Friday evening game?
Even then, it would apply to relatively few counties in any given season. The public like Friday evening action, a view supported by the big crowd that attended the Carlow-Laois SF qualifier tie in Dr Cullen Park last June (it was almost twice as large as a corresponding tie between the counties which was played on a Saturday in 2012).
"Measures will have to be taken to regulate spending on county teams," writes Duffy. He points to Leitrim, Longford, Carlow, Sligo, Fermanagh, Roscommon and Monaghan, whose combined population is around 400,000, and raises concerns on how counties like those can compete, either financially or in playing numbers, with more densely populated areas.
MB: Granting smaller counties a bigger slice of the financial cake was mooted by GAA president Liam O'Neill last year, but it's going to be difficult to achieve. Ultimately, it would be a Central Council decision and, based on experiences over the years, county representatives tend to mind their own patch. Against that background, it's difficult to see the bigger, richer counties being too generous to their smaller, poorer neighbours. That may be wrong but it's the way things operate.
HAWK-EYE'S BLIND SPOT
"Mistakes happen in games from time to time that effectively determine the outcome, usually through human error. If one were to engage in sport only on the basis that every decision made could be guaranteed to be totally fair and equitable, it would be better to seek an alternative interest," writes Duffy in relation to Hawk-Eye's error during last year's Galway-Limerick All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final.
MB: He's quite right on the human error comment, but score detection technology was introduced to sort out that problem, not exacerbate it. It failed miserably in the minor semi-final and had to be decommissioned for the senior game which followed. Hawk-Eye's unsatisfactory response was to offer a short explanation, followed by a failure to answer some basic questions. It was scarcely an encouraging sign for what's to come if the system is to be used more extensively and glitches occur.
TIME GENTLEMEN, PLEASE
The clock/hooter system to signal the end of both halves comes into operation later this year, but already there are fears that it will cause controversies. "There is a concern that teams may use free-kicks, sideline kicks/pucks and substitutions to run down the clock towards the end of a game," writes Duffy.
MB: Replace 'may' with 'will' and you have a clear picture of what to expect. GAA rules have always operated on the basis that the more sophisticated the mousetrap, the cleverer the mouse becomes. Here's a likely scenario: a player, furthest away from the dug-out, is being replaced after the ball goes dead in the closing minutes. The replacement (on the leading team) has to wait for him to reach the sideline before going on, but what action can be taken against the substitute if he walks quite slowly towards the sideline? None under present rules, since time cannot be added on for making a substitution. Meanwhile, the clock ticks on, gobbling up precious seconds. Stand by for other time wars, not just when dispute arises as to whether the hooter had sounded before or after the ball was kicked/pucked for the winning or levelling score.
YOUR PROVINCE NEEDS YOU
"The idea of a combined Ulster team competing in the All-Ireland (hurling) championships has been floated by Donal Og Cusack, president of the GPA, and merits serious consideration for 2016; the strong sense of provincial identity in Ulster would generate significant spectator support for such a team. If Antrim continues to find it difficult to compete successfully in Leinster over the next three seasons, the idea of an Ulster team playing in the All-Ireland senior championship should be explored" – Duffy.
MB: It's surprising that the director-general, who has long supported the scrapping of the inter-provincial championships, now backs the idea of letting a province into inter-county championships. This is a bad idea on a number of fronts.
1. How can a province be admitted to a county competition? Surely there can be no greater demarcation line?
2. If Antrim were good enough to reach the 1989 All-Ireland final and run Kilkenny to two points in the 1991 semi-final and if Down were good enough to beat 1992 All-Ireland champions Kilkenny in Nowlan Park (sentencing them to relegation), surely the aim should be to get the Ulster duo (backed by Derry and Armagh) up to that level rather than creating an artificial Ulster entity for the All-Ireland championship?
3. How unfair would it be if the likes of Laois, Westmeath, Carlow, all of whom are working very hard to raise their standards, had to play a full Ulster team in the championship? Antrim beat Westmeath in the championship and Carlow in the league last year, so why should the Leinster pair be then asked to take on a full Ulster team?
4. All that apart, would the Ulster counties want to come together in such an artificial environment? After all, Antrim and Down couldn't even agree on a date for last year's Ulster final.
Duffy proposes that if a county hasn't completed its championship by the first weekend in October, it should not be allowed to participate in the provincial championships. He believes that if such a regime were introduced, clubs would insist on running off county championships much quicker in order to meet the provincial deadline.
MB: It's a good idea but would counties ignore the deadline and miss out on representation in the provincial championships? It's difficult to know but something has to give in an era when county finals are being played much later than 10-15 years ago, especially when so many players are left idle for much of the summer.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE
"ONE POSITIVE OUTCOME (NHL DELIBERATIONS LAST YEAR) IS THAT WE NOW HAVE STABILITY FOR A PERIOD OF THREE YEARS" – DUFFY.
MB: Good luck with that! Given the number of changes the NHL has undergone over the last 15 years, it's difficult to share his confidence that the current system will last beyond this year, let alone until the end of 2016.
"Referees will be under pressure and there will be the inevitable clamour for an about-turn when players receive black cards in the early rounds of the Allianz Football League. Let one thing be clear: there can be no turning back; the introduction of the black card can only be a beginning in the effort to allow Gaelic football to achieve its full potential" – Duffy.
MB: Correct on all fronts. However, I still believe that 10 minutes in the 'sin bin' would be more effective than allowing a black card recipient to be replaced.