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GAA insist second tier will not create second-class citizens

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GAA president John Horan speaking with GPA CEO Paul Flynn before the motions were discussed at the GAA Special Congress at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

GAA president John Horan speaking with GPA CEO Paul Flynn before the motions were discussed at the GAA Special Congress at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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GAA president John Horan speaking with GPA CEO Paul Flynn before the motions were discussed at the GAA Special Congress at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

GAA director-general Tom Ryan spoke of evolution rather than revolution after a two-tier senior football championship received strong backing at Special Congress in Cork on Saturday.

A huge percentage of delegates, 75.5 per cent, voted in favour of the proposal that will see Division 3 and 4 counties enter Tier 2 rather than the qualifiers from next year unless they reach a provincial final.

"If you're in Tier 2 and you're good enough championship-wise, you still have a route through the Tier 1 competition so it's not closing any doors to anyone if they're good enough," Ryan said.

"We agreed that as an association this time last year, or even farther back, that football needed some remedial attention and needed to be freshened up a bit."

Hunger

GAA president John Horan, a strong advocate, said it reflected a hunger for change. "It started with Wicklow and Leitrim coming to me asking could they get it on the clár at Central Council. It took on its own momentum, I was actually quite surprised it reached this stage so soon."

But both Horan and Ryan accepted there is a substantial challenge to market and promote the new competition after the sobering lessons of the Tommy Murphy Cup, which failed to provide a viable alternative.

"We are going to have to work on it… we have been talking to RTÉ in terms of the coverage for it, we hope to have the semi-finals and finals at Croke Park to give it that profile," Horan stated.

Despite those undertakings, much of the promotional support and commitment remains aspirational. Some of the more sceptical delegates cited the Joe McDonagh Cup in hurling which received similar promises which were not delivered.

There was concern that the reforms will impinge on the ongoing work of the GAA-appointed fixtures review task force, chaired by Eddie Sullivan, a member of the Management Committee. It is due to produce recommendations next month which will include proposals on competition reform.

Cork's Tracey Kennedy told Special Congress that introducing a second tier now could "tie the hands" of the fixtures task force. But Horan said that developing a second tier was in line with some of the task force's own proposals.

"I would say there has been a lot of comment on the fact that these proposals were brought today when that group still have to report," said Kennedy.

"But the uachtarán made it quite clear that what was being put on the table today was also being taken on board by that fixtures review group and I think that's what's important."

Cork will benefit from the passing of Saturday's opening motion, from Tipperary, calling for counties designated for Tier 2 to be determined by next year's National League rather than this year's competition.

The latter option would have put Cork in Tier 2 if they failed to beat Kerry in next year's Munster semi-final.

"Yes, there's no doubt it's a more welcome scenario for Cork if we're honest about it in that it gives us those two chances," said Kennedy. "Now, I'm not saying for a minute that we wouldn't beat Kerry in the championship but it does give us an extra chance."

The GPA voiced its opposition to the Tier 2 proposal on the basis of the ongoing work of the fixtures review task force and the strong possibility that a county could still be out of the championship after two matches.

With remarkably little opposition the 10-minute sin-bin for black-card offences, with 73.8 per cent in favour, advanced mark and 20-metre line kick-out all sailed through. There will be a four-week waiting period before they will be introduced to all new competitions, club and county.

"I'll be honest with you: the day I actually lost a little bit of faith in the black card was when Dean Rock got a card and Bernard Brogan walked out and played in his place and you're saying, 'Where's the sanction in that'?" said Horan. He said the stats from the sanction of the sin-bin during its trial period was 2.9 points scored by the team up a man against one score for the team down a man.

Irish Independent


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'My argument was that the fixtures review committee, which will report next month, should have been given time to deliver their report before any new competition structure was devised.' (stock photo) Opinion

GAA President John Horan addresses delegates at the Special Congress at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile