Friday 23 February 2018

No back door for provincial champions

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Despite the furore after all four of them were knocked out of last year's All-Ireland football quarter-finals, there is no support for giving beaten provincial champions a second bite of the championship cherry.

So says GAA director general Paraic Duffy, who stressed that a motion to give provincial winners a back-door chance was defeated at last year's Congress and that no such motion has been returned this year.

"On the law of averages it's bound to happen sometimes, but its occurrence -- once in 10 years -- hardly constitutes convincing evidence of the need for an overhaul of the existing system," Duffy said.

But he accepted that there is a need to give losing provincial finalists more than a week's turnaround for the qualifiers, and this has been addressed with a motion to this year's Congress to extend this to 13 days.


Duffy has also stood firm on the handling of last year's Leinster final debacle, saying that under rule the GAA could not order a replay, which was solely at Meath's discretion.

Describing the controversial climax to the game as "the low point of our activities in 2011" he said: "It is regrettable that what the match referee called a 'terrible mistake' deprived Louth of a first Leinster senior title since 1957.

"However, I reject utterly the criticism that Croke Park failed to offer leadership and direction. We provided both but, for some people, the default position in times of difficulty is the facile one of blaming Croke Park."

His wide-ranging report to next month's Congress covers all the major controversies of the past year, including the vexed question of the 'closed season' and the venue for future U-21 hurling finals.

"We need to avoid a repetition of the ill-feeling generated by this (U-21) issue and to make a definitive issue about whether Thurles is to be the venue for future U-21 finals, irrespective of the pairing," he said.

Duffy said he is loath to introduce new inter-county fixtures because they affect club calendars, but admits that the introduction of semi-finals in Division 1 leagues next year is needed to maintain interest in the later stages.

Duffy stands firmly by the policy of playing the leagues in one calendar year and also said he did not believe it is possible to run off the third-level colleges competitions before Christmas.

But he also blamed counties for dwindling league interest, saying they aren't doing enough to market matches locally. He believes the only solution may be to return to the practice of giving home teams their league gate, rather than pooling them.

The director general also admits that using the leagues as lab-rats for rules experiments has damaged their status and that such trials should be conducted in other competitions.

Central Council's motion, which calls for match bans, rather than time bans, will address "clear inequities in our disciplinary system" he said.

This will be trialled, initially, only at senior inter-county level in 2012, when suspensions incurred during the leagues will carry over to the championships.

Central Council also have a motion that suggests a new Standing Committee on playing rules, which could suggest changes every year.

Irish Independent

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