Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 20 November 2017

GPA must tackle fixture injustice

If I were Charlie Harrison or Vincent Corey here's what I'd do: I would contact my Sligo and Monaghan colleagues and advise them that, as captain, I was proposing a campaign to end the type of injustice that had been visited on both teams last Saturday.

The next phone call would be to the GPA representative and the county board. I'd ask the GPA rep to urge head office to hold a nationwide vote on a proposal that if the 2011 schedule included beaten provincial finalists playing their next game six (or seven) days later, everybody would boycott the qualifiers.

Too drastic? Absolutely not. If the fixture- makers deemed it unfair to ask provincial runners-up to play a qualifier tie a week after the final from 2005 to 2008, why is it okay now?

I would ask the county board why they didn't oppose the return of this system and why they didn't seek an explanation from the Connacht and Ulster Councils as to why, for the second successive year, their provincial finals were last on the rota -- leaving the losers with a six-day turnaround.

This year it was Sligo and Monaghan, last year Galway and Antrim. All four lost, but there's nothing new there. Since the introduction of the qualifiers, Dublin (who beat Sligo in 2001) are the only provincial runners-up to win a qualifier tie on the following weekend.

Even then, Dublin had seven, rather than six, days to recover. Granted, that's only a marginal difference, but it means that no provincial runner-up has ever won in a six-day turnaround. Twelve of the 13 counties who faced the six/seven-day turnaround lost, which confirms that it's asking too much of players who have invested heavily in trying to win the provincial title to then face a qualifier tie against a team which has built up considerable momentum.


The scale of some of the defeats shows how flat provincial runners-up can be six or seven days later. Down may be improving, but they're not 19 points better than Sligo and while Monaghan came up just four points shy of Kildare, they were further adrift in terms of performance.

Prior to the ending of the quick turnaround in 2005, there had been some very lopsided games involving beaten provincial finalists.

It was obvious that the system was unfair -- hence the decision to ensure a minimum 13-day gap. But, in the name of creating more space for club activity -- which hasn't worked -- it was decided that the All-Ireland quarter-finals should be played earlier. So, from last year on, the programme was tightened up.

Since the Connacht and Ulster finals were the last two on the schedule, the losers faced the six-day turnaround. Did anybody in the Connacht and Ulster Councils spot how unfair it was on their runners-up, compared to those in Munster and Leinster?

Limerick had three weeks before their qualifier, while Louth had 13 days although, in fairness, their season was effectively dead after the Leinster final fiasco.

Quite why Connacht, who started their championship on May 2, didn't have their final until 11 weeks later is a mystery. Ulster took nine weeks to run off eight games.

However, the broader issue is this: do the GAA believe it's fair to treat provincial runners-up so shabbily? We're repeatedly told the provincials are an essential pillar of the championships, yet some teams who come second best in them are penalised.

Sligo and Monaghan were devastated after the provincial defeats last Sunday week, yet both were back out six days later. Is it any wonder they didn't perform?

This definitely looks like a case for the GPA. And since Sligo were one of the victims this year, maybe they should initiate the campaign. After all, they have a man on the inside, as former colleague Dara McGarty is the GPA's National Development Officer.

While they're at it, they might add in a call to amend the system so that provincial champions who lose All-Ireland quarter-finals get a second chance. Kildare, Cork, Down and Dublin are all in the quarter-finals after losing one game, yet if any of the provincial champions, Meath, Kerry, Tyrone or Roscommon, are beaten next weekend they're out. Another injustice which shouldn't be tolerated.

Mcguinness can lead way for promoting managers

JULY still isn't out and already Donegal, a county not noted for smooth managerial transition, have appointed Jim McGuinness as new football boss. It's a smart move. McGuinness did well with the U-21s, many of whom will form the basis of the senior side in the future.

Promoting underage managers to senior level should be an option everywhere, but it only tends to happen if minor or U-21 teams have won titles. In other words, the manager is judged on success, not on what he got from the available resources.

Not every manager can preside over title-winning sides because the players are not good enough, but how many managers of minor/U-21 teams who didn't do well are promoted to senior level? Very few, which suggests that appointing managers remains an unrefined business in the GAA.

Irish Independent

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