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Provincial structure has run its course, insists Dessie Farrell


Dessie Farrell has argued that changes are needed in the structures of the football championship

Dessie Farrell has argued that changes are needed in the structures of the football championship

Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Dessie Farrell has argued that changes are needed in the structures of the football championship

It's not that he's jumping on the bandwagon, Gaelic Players' Association CEO Dessie Farrell insists, but change is needed in the football championship.

Dublin's hammering of Longford and their general domination in Leinster has brought the issue to the forefront of many people's minds but this is a drum he's been beating for a while.

The championship in its current form, he says, isn't maximising its full potential or worth to the association.

"I just firmly believe the championship structure needs to change," Farrell said as the GPA became charity partner with the Childhood Cancer Foundation

"It's our premier competition and I don't think we are maximising the potential within it. Hurling is in a really strong place at the minute, football is lagging way behind.

"There are a combination of things, the tactical evolution of the game is problematic to some degree

"But definitely the competition structures themselves are a huge restriction to where the game of football and the championship could be at. It's long overdue that a serious debate takes place."

What shape any change to the championship may take remains to be seen but the issue was discussed at the most recent Central Council meeting with Farrell reporting that an appetite for change exists among the association's top brass.

What is clear is that the GPA chief believes the provincial format, in football, has run its race. As ever, any change will come slow and the provinces are sure to resist any attempt to remove their championships but Farrell believes it's time to "grab the nettle".

"My personal view again is that any changes that come about that still retain the provincial structure are only moving the deck chairs around. It's time to grab the nettle and make a serious change and we're going to canvass our players in relation to this.

"We'll be doing that within the next fortnight. We've already done some of it in the past two years.

"There's definitely an appetite for change.

"We're going to bring forward a particular model that we've been working on ourselves and run that by our own membership first and as I indicated at Central Council the last day, we're going to bring a proposal forward to Central Council.

"The two-tier one is interesting. I think it depends on what proposal you put forward. The Tommy Murphy Cup, on its own and in the way it was run previously, I don't think there is a massive appetite for that.

"Could you introduce a second competition whereby both finals were played on the one day here on the third week in September? I think that would hold more appeal.

"But my sense is - and talking to more and more players - that the provincial system is the major stumbling block and we need to overcome that in some way. And I know Munster hurling has been referred to but we're not asking that. This is a football issue as far as I'm concerned."

Sledging is another talking point that has dominated the early part of the championship and Farrell announced that the players' body was soon to launch an initiative aimed at tackling the issue.

There has been plenty of comment since Tyrone and Donegal clashed in the Ulster Championship, while there were shocking claims that one minor footballer was abused over the death of his father.

"This is something we've been looking at for a while and I've gone on record saying it's an issue with have to be vigilant of," Farrell continued.

"There were some examples of it earlier in the season as well in the league and it's something that we take very seriously.

"It's a big issue for our game and we're initiating a campaign over the next couple of weeks to try to draw greater awareness among the playing population."

The former Dublin All-Ireland-winning footballer described the tactic as "horrible" and insisted that managers are sometimes turning a "blind eye" to the practice instead of trying to eradicate it.

"It's just an issue that we need to get on top of because it doesn't augur well for the game. It's horrible, horrible to look at. I think the managers and coaches need to step up to the plate here as well.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say it's being encouraged by some coaches but I'd definitely go so far as to say that coaches are turning a blind eye to it in certain situations and that can't be tolerated.

"My sense is that we'll have to go through a process but that there will be a change in behaviour."

Irish Independent