Sport Gaelic Football

Sunday 25 March 2018

Mick O'Dwyer: 'If I was made president of the GAA I would...

1. Scrap the provincial councils

"You can drive from one end of the country to the other in a few hours, so what do we need four provincial councils for? There are some fine people working in the provincial councils who could still do an important job, but in a different role. Counties are well able to run their own affairs locally and there are plenty OF people, not to mention committees, up in Croke Park to do the rest. After all, that's their job."

2. Scrap the provincial championships

"An open draw is a fairer way to run the championship. By all means, give teams a second chance, but if you start with an open draw, it's fair for everybody. As it is, some counties get a bye straight to the provincial semi-finals, while others have to play two games to get that far. The point where you enter the All-Ireland qualifiers is decided by where you leave the provincials, so it's a big advantage for teams that have none, or maybe one, game to reach a provincial semi-final."

3. Change the financial structures

"I can never understand how all the gate money from provincial championship games goes to the provincial councils, while the money from the All-Ireland games goes to Croke Park. Gate money for every game should be split three ways -- a third to each of the competing counties and a third to central funds. As it is, counties are struggling for cash, although their players are the ones generating it all."

4. Start the National Leagues in autumn

"I could never understand why we stopped playing league games at this time of year. We used to have some great clashes when the league started in October. As it is, we're leaving it to the clubs to compete with the big rugby and soccer games when it comes to getting media coverage, while the vast majority of our top players are idle. We should play three league games pre-Christmas, which would free up time for clubs and colleges in the New Year. As it is, the first four months of the year are far too busy."

5. Drop ticket prices

"It shouldn't cost any more than €10 to see a National League game. There's no point having big stadiums three-quarters empty for league games. It's far better to drop prices and encourage people to turn out. Admission to championship games should be cut by a tenner across the board."

6. End the ban on November-December training

"What's happening now is stupid. If a panel of inter-county players want to get together in November and December to kick football or puck a sliotar around, they're breaking the rules, yet they can join a soccer or rugby club and train and play as often as they like. Any wonder so many GAA players -- and top ones at that -- are playing soccer and rugby at the moment? Lads are training away with college teams and there's no problem with that, yet county panels can't work together.

If a player wants a rest, let him have it, but don't make stupid rules that prevents everybody from training. Come January 1 and it's all go. The O'Byrne Cup starts on January 9, yet players can't train together until January 1. Any wonder we have so many injuries?"

7. Restore the Railway Cups

"It's a disgrace how they were let go to ruin. It started with the ridiculous decision to move the finals out of Croke Park when crowds started to drop a little. That was the time to market the finals and encourage the public to come along. There's never a problem marketing the International Rules games -- why was it so different for the Railway Cups?

Players loved the Railway Cups. I think back to my own playing days and the great opportunity the Railway Cups gave to players who didn't get much of a chance to play on the big stage with their own counties. Men like Packy McGarty and Cathal Flynn in Leitrim, Mickey Kearins in Sligo, Gerry O'Reilly in Wicklow, PT Treacy in Fermanagh, Jimmy Whan in Armagh -- they became household names through the Railway Cup. With proper marketing and timing, the Railway Cups could still work but the will isn't there to promote them."

8. Change the pick-up rule

in football

"Let players pick the ball straight off the ground. I can't see how it adds anything to the game to force players to put their toe under the ball first. All it does is slow the game down and increase fouling. Anyway, it's virtually impossible to tell the difference between what's legal and illegal, which makes life hard for referees and frustrates players."

9. Ease up on the handpass rule

We've been tricking around with the handpass for years and it's still causing problems. There was nothing wrong with the way it was used, but, for some reason, they decided to change it again this year, which caused more problems. It's daft that the same punishment applies for a deliberate -- and possibly even serious -- foul and a handpass, which the referee decides is wrong, even if several others like it are allowed.

I wouldn't mind seeing an experiment where the ball had to be kicked after two handpasses but, for God's sake, stop meddling with how the handpass is carried out. It speeds up the game and that's what people want."

10. Help players in the recession

"Spend more money on coaching in schools and clubs, while also helping our players in these tough times. Players generate all the money in the GAA, so there's no reason why more of them couldn't be employed -- either on a full or part time basis -- in coaching.

With no proper exercise on the school curriculum, it's an opportunity for the GAA to help the development of kids, promote our own games, while providing employment for players who are struggling in the different Ireland we're living in now."

Irish Independent

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