Tuesday 16 January 2018

Provinces to stand firm against boundary changes

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The provincial councils are lining up to resist any attempt by the GAA to change traditional boundaries as suggested by president Christy Cooney.

Fearing that it would dilute their authority, they will work quietly towards ensuring that it gets little support among counties.

Cooney is to set up a work group to examine the possibility of re-drawing provincial boundaries, which would see some counties leaving their 'home' province for competition purposes.

The group will also consider whether Dublin would be better served by having two county boards, a proposition that has not gone down well in the capital.

Cooney believes that switching Galway and Antrim into Leinster for the senior hurling championship has proved so successful that it's appropriate to examine similar tweaking in other areas.

If provinces were divided into four groups of eight as opposed to the current uneven spread, it would make for a much more streamlined football championship fixtures programme with each area running games off over the same period, thereby helping club schedules.

However, the provincial councils will oppose any such move and that's before the difficult question arises as to which counties might be asked to leave what they regard as their natural environment.

Cooney said that while he wasn't putting the idea forward as a concrete proposal, he felt that it -- and the two-board option for Dublin -- were worth discussing.

"These are difficult questions, but ones that deserve, at the very least, some serious consideration and debate," he said.

"For this reason, I intend to establish a group to prepare a report and tease out the issues at hand. Perhaps the conclusion will be that such realignment is too big a step for the association at this point in time.

"However, we should not be afraid to at least question the status quo and give proper consideration to possible alternatives that could help the GAA to prosper even further in the years ahead."

The initial feedback from the provinces is hostile to any change of boundaries and since history shows that provincial councils are an extremely powerful lobby group, it's difficult to see how Cooney's proposition -- however meritorious it might be -- will garner much support.

The power of the provincial councils was illustrated at Congress last Saturday when a motion to restore replays to first round and quarter-final championship games came up for discussion.

Both Cooney and director general Paraic Duffy were opposed to the proposal on the basis that it would impact negatively on club activity, but it was voted through in Mullingar.

It's understood that provincial councils had lobbied extensively for a return to the system which applied up to 2008 when all drawn championship games were replayed without trying to settle them in extra-time.

The financial benefit of replays was a major factor in the decision to scrap extra-time.

Leinster lost out heavily last year with the Dublin v Wexford football quarter-final being decided in extra-time when a replay would have yielded a large dividend.

Irish Independent

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