Thursday 23 November 2017

'Club players will feel a bit let down' - Duffy

Director-general Paraic Duffy (R) in conversation with GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail during the annual Congress in Carlow, where some of the decisions drew criticism from Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Director-general Paraic Duffy (R) in conversation with GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail during the annual Congress in Carlow, where some of the decisions drew criticism from Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

GAA director-general Paraic Duffy has admitted that club players will feel let down by Congress but insisted that the campaign to provide them with a better fixtures' schedule must continue.

Several proposals, designed to create more space for club activity, were rejected on Saturday as delegates adopted a far more conservative approach than on Friday night when they changed the minor age limit and replaced U-21 with U-20 in football.

Motions calling for extra-time to be played in all championship games except All-Ireland and provincial finals, bringing forward the All-Ireland senior finals by two weeks and scrapping the All-Ireland intermediate and junior hurling championships were defeated on Saturday.

Central Council backed them on the basis that it would benefit club players and while they all won sizeable majorities, they fell short of the required two-thirds majority.

It was desperately close in the case of intermediate hurling where the proposal for its abolition was carried on a 65-35 per cent majority, just short of the two-thirds barrier.

Duffy expressed disappointment over some of the decisions, which he believes were not in the best interest of club players.

"I was very pleased with motions that were passed on Friday night (minor and U-21 age limits) but was disappointed with what happened on Saturday morning. Even people who were against change talked about the need to do more for club players.

"Some of the motions that were rejected would have benefited club players - there's no doubt about that. I think club players will feel we let them down a little bit. We did well on the burnout issue but club players will be entitled to say: 'what in all of this for us?"

Despite having the plan to bring the All-Ireland senior finals forward by two weeks rejected, Duffy insists that it will be possible to complete the All-Ireland club finals in the calendar year, an ambition which has been on the agenda for some time.

Over 60 per cent of delegates voted to have earlier All-Ireland finals but it wasn't enough to change the current timing.


As with so many other calls for change, Cork were to the forefront of the opposition, contending that the All-Ireland final dates weren't the problem for clubs.

They also argued - with a lot of justification it must be said - that bringing the finals forward would be an own-goal in terms of promotional value to the GAA. "September is gaelic games month in Ireland - we should keep it that way," said Cork vice-chairman Tracey Kennedy.

The question of how best to run off the All-Ireland football championships remains unanswered after Central Council opted to withdraw their doomed plan to introduce a 'B' championship for Division 4 counties, while reform proposals from Roscommon and Carlow were beaten.

Roscommon's call for a 'B' championship, involving 16 counties made no impression but Carlow's call for a tiered seeding system, run in conjunction with the provincial championships, attracted 40 per cent support.

It was enough to suggest that there is still a high level of dissatisfaction among counties with the current system, which has been in place since 2001.

"The Carlow motion got strong support - you can't ignore that. We'll reflect on it and see where we go. It's certainly not the end of the discussion. We might go about it in a different way next time," said Duffy.

President Aogán Ó Fearghail, who referenced All-Ireland qualifier reform as an area for consideration when he took over last year, defended Central Council's decision to draft the 'B' championship proposal, even if they were effectively forced to scrap it after objections from counties and players.

"Counties in Division 4 did look originally to have a 'B' championship. But when it was agreed by Central Council and went back to the counties (as a formal proposal), they had a different view on it," he said.

What happens next remains to be seen but it's clear that there is a mood for change, provided the right formula is devised.

Restricting 'live' TV coverage to free-to-air channels is firmly off the agenda after Dublin's motion to have it written into rule was well beaten (85-15 per cent).

Dublin and Donegal spoke in favour of introducing a rule, which would prevent any future deals with channels like Sky Sports, while Cork, Cavan and Longford - backed up by former GAA President Nickey Brennan and GPA representative Dermot Earley - led the opposition.

The overwhelming majority in favour of allowing the GAA negotiators to deal with all channels means that the issue is now effectively decided and won't return to the agenda any time soon.

This is the final year of the current deal, which has RTE as the lead channel for 'live' coverage while Sky had a smaller share of the action.

On the playing rules front, the introduction of the 'mark' in Gaelic football was the most interesting decision.

A player who catches the ball outside the '45' from a kick-out can either call a mark or play on.

Former Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns, who is now chairman of Playing Rules committee, made an eloquent case for its introduction, mainly that it would help restore the art of high catching. Opposition opposition came from Cork, who wanted it trialled.

Whether it will be in place for this year's championship remains to be seen. It will be discussed at Central Council in three weeks' time when a decision on the timing of its introduction will be taken.

It's most likely to be deferred until next January as changing a rule in mid season would not go down well with players or managers.

Irish Independent

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