Friday 24 November 2017

Players' stance puts delegates in a dilemma

Can Congress really push through a proposal for All-Ireland reform that's strongly opposed by both GPA and CPA?

John Horan was elected with 144 votes as the next president of the GAA at last night's Congress in Croke Park Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
John Horan was elected with 144 votes as the next president of the GAA at last night's Congress in Croke Park Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Is this the day when the GAA decides that qualification for the All-Ireland football semi-finals will be through mini-leagues among the last eight teams?

Will it opt to end the long-established practice of playing the All-Ireland hurling and football finals in September? And will it scrap replays except in provincial finals and All-Ireland finals?

Those are the main items of interest on today's Congress agenda, with all three certain to promote intense debate. They are being proposed by Central Council, which, in theory, gives them gives them substantial weight but since a two-thirds majority is required to have them passed it will be no surprise if at least one of them falls.


The round-robin proposal is opposed by both the inter-county (GPA) and club (CPA) players' representatives, although the latter has no official voice at Congress.

The CPA outlined its position some time ago, unlike the GPA which didn't announce its stance until Wednesday.

They have called on delegates to vote against the proposal, citing lack of consultation with players and the absence of a plan to enhance lower-ranked counties among the reasons for their objections.

Whatever about the merit of their case, the fact that they delayed announcing it until after most county boards had decided their approach to the proposal is surprising.

Counties would have taken the GPA's stance into consideration - perhaps even to the point of swaying a decision - but instead they had to wait until three days before Congress for the players' view, accompanied by a call for rejection.

So what are delegates from counties who have democratically decided to support the proposal supposed to do? Does the GPA expect them to ignore the instruction from their county boards, simply because the players' group has finally spoken?

A motion to bring forward the hurling and football finals by two weeks received 61pc support last year, suggesting that a similar proposal might now receive the necessary two-thirds majority.

However, Central Council have gone further, calling for both finals to be played in August. That will be a harder sell, especially since it's based on the notional theory that it will benefit clubs substantially.

The reality is that this year eight counties will be eliminated from the Championship by June 24, 16 by July 8 and 26 by July 30, yet many of them will not complete their senior championships until October.

Bringing forward the All-Ireland finals won't change that so why meddle with dates that have an incalculable promotional value to the GAA?

While most of the focus will be on football matters today, some neat footwork will be required to avoid an unnecessary mess in hurling. Galway are proposing that their U-21, minor and intermediate teams be allowed to join the seniors in the Leinster Championship, a call that that's not being heeded in the east.

If this motion is debated it will leave Connacht, Ulster and Munster counties, plus overseas units dictating the structure of the Leinster championship. That would not only be unfair but also dangerously divisive.

The solution? Defer the motion and establish a committee (with a brief to report in four months) to examine all the issues in what is, after all, a matter for hurling in general as opposed to Galway and Leinster only.

Profile: John Horan

It really is a great time for Dublin GAA, on and off the pitch.

Jim Gavin and his relentlessly ambitious football squad continue to set – and reach – new targets; the hurlers stabilised the early season with a win over Cork in Páirc Ui Rinn last Saturday and remain optimistic for the coming season and beyond.

This afternoon Cuala are bidding to reach the All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final for the first time and now the entire county can look forward to having one of its own sitting in the president’s chair between 2018 and 2021.

John Horan’s rise to the most prestigious administrative position in Irish sport has been unusually quick. Unlike the four rivals he beat in last night’s election, he never served as county chairman but established a high profile through his involvement with schools and coaching.

He ran for vice-chairman of the Leinster Council in 2008 but lost by a vote to Martin Skelly, one of last night’s beaten candidates.

Elected vice-chairman three years later, Horan took over as provincial chairman in 2014, completing his term last month before concentrating on the presidential contest.

He now begins a year as president-elect prior to taking over from Aogán O Fearghail next February, when he will become the first president from Dublin since Dr JJ Stuart in 1958-61.

As with previous presidents-elect, he will keep a relatively low profile for the next year, but judging from his comments over recent months, he has a clear vision of how he will proceed once he settles into his office in Croke Park.

A major analysis of the GAA at all levels it likely to be among his top priorities, having recently pointed out that one hadn’t been carried out since the 2002 Strategic Review, undertaken at the behest of then president Seán McCague.

Horan, who is principal of St Vincent’s secondary school in Glasnevin, has also identified club activity (he is a member of Na Fianna) as a priority.

The plight of club players, many of whom are left without a structured fixtures schedule during the summer months, is now very much on the agenda and will still be there when Horan takes over next year.

When asked late last year after his presidential candidacy was announced if he thought he would win, he replied: “Well, I’m not running to be beaten and I’m not running to have a second run (in 2020) either.”

Last night, Congress delegates decided that his time had come.

Irish Independent

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