Championship structures set for major review by GAA - again
A major review of All-Ireland football and hurling championship structures is to be undertaken as part of the GAA's latest three-year strategic plan.
Work will begin shortly and the findings will be completed in good time for consideration before the current formats complete their three-year experimental phase after the 2020 All-Ireland finals. It's also planned to tackle the issue of club v county fixture problems and spending on inter-county teams.
Those are the headline points in a range of targets which will top the agenda during John Horan's presidency. Work on the document took six months and while it won't be regarded as particularly radical, it does include a number of interesting items.
Apart from the championship structure review, there are commitments to improve the balance between club and county fixtures, to introduce a policy which would free up inter-county players to play with their clubs more often, and to address the over-emphasis on county development squads.
It's also planned to address the impact of population shifts from rural to urban areas and to re-examine how the commitment to amateur status can be maintained in the modern era.
However, it's the undertaking to review the inter-county championships and to work towards improving the balance between club and county which will generate most interest.
The revamped Leinster and Munster hurling championships are heading for the final stages of their initial year, while football's 'Super 8' series will have its first outing next month.
Both will continue until 2020, after which a decision will be taken whether to continue with them or introduce new systems.
The review will have to consider whether the provincial format is any longer fit for purpose as the starting point for the All-Ireland championships.
However, any proposal to downgrade the provincial championships would be strongly opposed by the four councils.
The need to have more compatible inter-county and club schedules has been a source of angst for several years, leading to the launch of the Club Players' Association last year.
The plan to target county development squads is clearly a Horan initiative as he identified it as a key priority when he took over as president in February.
“We need to row back from creating an elitism in young players which is unhealthy for our games,” said the GAA president (right).
The growing population shift from rural to urban centres presents the GAA with specific difficulties, which they are now planning to explore.
Defining rural and urban issues separately is the first step in a process which will also involve seeking ways for country clubs to maintain numbers while the priority for town and city units is catering for growing memberships.
The growing threat of creeping professionalism will also be taken on, with particular reference to identifying what is – and isn’t – acceptable within the amateur code.
Members of the 2018 - 2021 strategic plan group:
John Horan (president), Páraic Duffy (director-general until March 2018), Tom Ryan (newly-appointed director-general), Ruairi Harvey (organisational development manager), Colin Regan (GAA community and health manager), Noel Connors (Waterford hurler), Cathal Mac Coille, (journalist, Dublin), Ciarán McLoughlin (Ulster Council treasurer), Eddie Sullivan (former club chairman, Dublin), Larry McCarthy (New York, former county chairman and current GAA trustee), Eilís Kavanagh (Wexford, Camogie Association), Paula Prunty (Ladies football), Seán Dunnion (former Donegal chairman), Shane Flanagan (Leinster Council operations manager).