Sport GAA

Tuesday 20 August 2019

GAA President John Horan seeking three proposals to reform fixtures from new committee

GAA president John Horan with Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson (left), and Rev Charles Mullen, Dean’s Vicar of St Patrick’s Cathedral, at an ecumenical service in St Patrick’s celebrating the contribution to the GAA by all faiths. Photo: Sportsfile
GAA president John Horan with Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson (left), and Rev Charles Mullen, Dean’s Vicar of St Patrick’s Cathedral, at an ecumenical service in St Patrick’s celebrating the contribution to the GAA by all faiths. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

GAA president John Horan will ask a new fixtures committee to come up with three proposals to overhaul the current GAA calendar that will derive benefits for clubs in the long term.

The committee will be headed by former Department of Finance Secretary General Eddie Sullivan and will have representatives from all strands of the GAA on board - including the Gaelic Players Association, Club Players Association (CPA) and second and third level bodies.

Sullivan is a former chairman of St Sylvester's GAA club in Malahide and has taken on a number of other key State roles. Critically, Horan has not ruled out a move away from the provincial Championship model that is the centrepiece of the GAA season, but in recent years has grown more uncompetitive in football, especially in Leinster and Munster.

The challenge for the new committee will be to balance all the moving pieces and grapple with an inter-county game that has grown considerably, with the addition of hurling round robin provincial games, eight All-Ireland football quarter-final games and the Joe McDonagh Cup in hurling, on top of an U-20 football competition being switched to summer and in more direct conflict with club activity.

As this new committee gets to work, a Central Council meeting in June is likely to discuss and propose the addition of a second tier competition that will, if passed at a September Special Congress, be in place for 2020.

"When I took over as president I promised in the summer of 2019 to put a group together to look at the overall schedule and fixture programme that we offer within the organisation," said Horan, speaking on RTE's 'Morning Ireland' programme while he was conducting the first round qualifier draw.

"Key to that is to give clubs an opportunity that they'd have a meaningful programme on the ground. There's no silver bullet for this - if it was easily solved it would have been solved a long time ago."

Horan has asked for three proposals and feels the preferred choice could be put before Congress in 2020 and be in place for the 2021 season.

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"If they were to come with one proposal and it would fail, I don't think that would serve any great purpose of the work of the committee. So the indication that I will be giving them when they do come together is to come back with three proposals.

"There is a debate out there whether provincial Championships should survive or not survive. That will be a decision taken by the membership of the organisation in Congress 2020, but in the meantime that offer has to be put on the table."

The composition of a committee on this scale to work on the fixtures issue has been a call of the CPA since its inception as they sought a 'blank canvas' approach.

Previously the Football Review Committee (FRC), headed by the late Eugene McGee, came up with proposals suggesting some reform for provincial Championships, where there would be four groups of eight and re-entry to a different province for some counties to provide a more balanced fixtures programme, but it didn't gain much traction.

Essentially the FRC under McGee were more intent on rule changes than structural reform, recognising the impracticalities at that time of disbanding the provincial Championships.

Since then, reforming work on fixtures has been conducted internally, with former director general Páraic Duffy playing a leading role with the addition of the 'Super 8s', the hurling round robin provincial series and other changes to streamline the inter-county calendar, including a shortening of the season by two weeks.

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