Monday 18 December 2017

Duffy welcomes crackdown on US summer exodus

Defence of black card and resistance to use of television match official feature prominently in GAA director-general's annual report

Paraic Duffy in Croke Park
Paraic Duffy in Croke Park
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Inter-county GAA players may no longer be able to travel to the US to play summer football as long as their counties are involved in the championship if a motion from US GAA is passed at Congress next month.

GAA director-general Páraic Duffy has welcomed the submission of the motion from the States that, he feels, can bring an end to the practice of financial incentives luring top players away from their counties and especially their clubs in the summer, a practice he says flies in the face of the GAA's amateur status.

US GAA intends bringing back the date for obtaining a sanction to July 1 from July 20 and prohibit inter-county players from obtaining clearance if their teams are still involved at provincial or All-Ireland level.

So many counties, and subsequently clubs, have suffered from the exodus once they lose provincial championship matches. All-Ireland semi-finalists Tipperary lost four players to the US after last year's league campaign.

"We need to try to end the practice of money being offered to attract top inter-county players to the US including New York, who become available following their county's elimination from the championship," writes Duffy in his report.

Contempt

"It leaves their home clubs without their services, displaces American-born players and utterly ignores our rules on amateurism.

"The actions of a handful of clubs with wealthy benefactors who pay these players to play shows a contempt for the GAA and its values," he added.

"The growth of our games in the USA in recent years has been driven by hard work and good coaching programmes for juvenile players.

"Investment in these programmes will do far more to secure the future of our games in the New York and the US GAA areas than paying a small group of elite players to play a handful of games.

"There will be those who will argue that the presence of these players is a boost to supporters abroad, but, if this is so, it is at the expense of their clubs in Ireland, American-born players and of our rules on amateur status."

Meanwhile, Duffy has launched a strong defence of the black card and believes it has done more for Gaelic football than it has taken away from it since its introduction.

Citing the statistics of more scores (25 per cent increase in goals, 7.5 per cent increase in points) and a 13 per cent reduction in the number of frees awarded, Duffy has highlighted a positive side to the sanction.

But he accepts that interpretation around the deliberate aspect of black-card offences must be tidied up.

"It is frustrating that there has been an inconsistency in the implementation of the rule and also a lack of understanding in some of the commentary of what the rule says. I accept that there is still work to be done in each of these areas, but instances of players being dragged to the ground are now rare, while the deliberate body-collide, an ugly, cynical and destructive foul that marred the game, has virtually been eradicated," he adds.

Speaking at the launch of his annual report, he added that further time was required for referees to adjust and get better at implementation.

"The next rule change year is 2020. That's three years and a reasonable amount of time to try and work on it and get it better and if, in 2020, people say, 'No, it hasn't worked,' I'll accept that, absolutely.

"But let's give it time. Just because of a few bad decisions, bad cases doesn't mean you go and change the law."

In his report, Duffy recalls how so many cynical fouls disfigured the game in the past.

"Have we all forgotten just how nasty and objectionable these offences were?" he asks.

But any prospect that referees would have the aid of video review in the future to help them with contentious calls would not have his support.

Duffy re-affirmed his opposition to reverting to the camera on the basis that it would lead to too many interruptions during a game.

He mentioned the reaction to the penalty decision that favoured Mayo and Aidan O'Shea during their qualifier game in Castlebar when the clamour for a review grew loud.

"There are a number of difficulties with this manner of reviewing referees' decisions," he points out.

"Primary among them is that it disrupts the flow of the game. In sports such as hurling, Gaelic football, Australian Rules and soccer, the games are more attractive when played quickly.

"That may be the reason why the latter two sports have relied on technology to ensure the integrity of the score, but have stayed away from the more invasive impact of video replays," he writes.

"Professional sports such as rugby, basketball, baseball and American football have all adopted the video-review model, yet it is hugely frustrating for the spectator or viewer to wait through the time taken to reach a decision."

Duffy said he found the recent comments of top rugby union referee Nigel Owens interesting where he suggested over-use of the TMO was "eroding the authority" of the referee and that the focus should be on improving the decision-making of the match officials.

"We need to remind ourselves that when we play sport, it will be played and officiated by human beings whose inescapable condition it is to occasionally make mistakes."

The report also highlights the disparity that exists at provincial and All-Ireland club level, especially in intermediate and junior grades, between counties with different numbers of senior teams.

Kerry, for instance, have now just eight senior clubs and, naturally, are dominating those championships.

Páraic Duffy on . . .

Football championship reform

"If we leave the football championship unchanged, we are effectively burying our heads in the sand. The problem of falling appeal will remain, with no obvious alternative that is likely to achieve a consensus, while the unfairness to club players will again have been ignored."

Inter-provincial competitions

"The six games drew a combined attendance of less than 1,000 paying spectators. Surely we have a responsibility to ask ourselves why we persist in playing these competitions. They are neither developmental nor promotional. Many of our top players declare themselves unavailable and few spectators turn up. I cannot imagine what circumstances we think will change that would make a difference to any of these realities."

on impact of rural decline

"This is a crisis that is not within the power of the GAA to resolve. We know that our clubs will fight as hard as they can to continue to exist, either by coming together at underage level or through full amalgamations. We can, of course, review our rules to make them flexible enough to allow clubs to continue. But rural decline is a problem that must be a priority for Government."

Dublin funding reduction

"The growth of the GAA in Dublin over the past 20 years has been one of the successes for the GAA. And I understand people's view. It has taken a lot of resources to do that, but Dublin are sensible as well and they realise that we have to resource other counties as well. You can't just do it in one swoop. We're doing it gradually and I think we've made good progress and there will be some equalisation."

Read more: A steady hand on the tiller to steer GPA away from confrontation

Read more: GAA director-general Páraic Duffy explains the role Bertie Ahern's governments played in the development of the Dublin juggernaut

Irish Independent

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