Colm Keys: 'Unfair Galway situation has gone on too long'
Galway hurling is being treated "unfairly" in the context of the provincial game, and the GAA at central level needs to "grasp the nettle on the issue", president Aogán Ó Fearghail has stressed.
The future of Galway's participation in Leinster is at stake, with a proposal to seek entry to Munster if they are not given full access to minor and U-21 championships and the facility to play home championship matches.
And Ó Fearghail said he and director-general Paraic Duffy will take personal responsibility for trying to bring resolution to the issue after Congress.
But with Leinster counties almost unanimously stacked in their opposition to Galway reaching any further into their province, the impasse will be difficult to break, the president acknowledged.
"I said before that I thought it was unfair to Galway with the situation they were in and I still believe that," said Ó Fearghail, who was speaking in Dubai as the Opel GAA/GPA All-Stars tour to the Middle East came to a conclusion.
"I accept that there are issues for Leinster counties also but it has gone on too long. I see a total unfairness in the situation," he said, admitting that separating their underage and senior teams is unsustainable.
"There are some counties in Leinster that have expressed total opposition. I think we need to grasp that.
"We have to grasp the nettle, and that's Galway's position and Antrim's position. Other counties are just going to have to accept that. Have we reached the stage where we have a Munster Championship and a rest of Ireland championship?" he asked.
"We'll have to put a number of proposals before these counties and let them see.
"I still think it goes back to the point of fairness. Galway, as a strong hurling county in the situation they are currently in, there is no fairness attached to that. We have to accept that.
"But I can't be too adamant about that because a lot of Leinster counties don't agree with that position and we have to listen to them and we'll do that. But I don't mind giving you my own opinion on it. I think they deserve to play a hurling match in Salthill, in Pearse Stadium."
Ó Fearghail does see a Galway move to Munster as feasible as it amounts to nothing more than "moving from one chair to another".
"It's a bit like the championship proposals in football, it's going to be very limited what we can do," he acknowledged.
"We have an exciting, wonderful product in the Munster Hurling Championship and that is going to have to be fairly well preserved as it is. Now there is Leinster too. How do we solve this? It's going to be difficult, but we are not going to hide from it."
Ó Fearghail said he will get to work on the impasse once the proposals for change to the football championship are dealt with at Congress.
"I think the most important event for the GAA at the moment is the current proposal for the football championship. I said it very recently to management, nothing should deflect us from that. We are at a crossroads stage in the GAA with regards our clubs and our inter-county game," said the president, who is confident that they will be passed.
With the Club Players Association (CPA) ready to launch in early January, Ó Fearghail feels they are saying nothing different to what the GAA at central level are saying themselves anyway.
"What the guys in the Club Players Association are saying is exactly what I've been saying myself, it's what the Árd-Stiúrthóir has been writing in his reports for the last two, three, four years," he said.
"It is unfair at the moment that everything ceases for such a long block of time. It just should not be like that but it needs to be tightened and it needs to be shaken in the way that I think the current proposals will do.
"There is nothing that I have seen (to suggest that) anybody representing a group called the Club Players Association would upset me, to be fair about it."
Ó Fearghail revealed that 20pc of GAA membership is now overseas and the Middle East is an area of particular growth.
He says there is much for the GAA at home to learn from how overseas units do their business, such as the issue of inclusion. And he noted how European GAA had rebranded to 'Gaelic games of Europe' to incorporate camogie and ladies' football.
It led him to some interesting comments on the GAA's future position, in the context of a changing Ireland, on the Flag and National Anthem which is enshrined in rule.
"We have to learn from our international units that we should never have closed minds about things that we always thought were precious and sacred," he said. "They may well be that but we have to have open minds as to where this could go.
"There could be further agreements politically at home. There is a massively changing world at home. Brexit is going to affect the GAA the same as it's going to affect everyone else and it does cause concerns. There might well be political realignments on the island of Ireland.
"You certainly cannot look at these issues in advance of an agreement. The Flag and the Anthem means a lot to the GAA and will continue to do so, but who knows in the future? In the future, if there are different agreements in place for the whole of Ireland. Of course the GAA would be inclusive in that."