Sunday 18 February 2018

Hurling changes can be in place for 2018 - Ó Fearghaíl

GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl (far right) with Michael ‘Babs’ Keating (centre) and Conor Counihan during the official opening of the ‘Imreoir to Bainisteoir’ exhibition launch at the GAA Museum in Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl (far right) with Michael ‘Babs’ Keating (centre) and Conor Counihan during the official opening of the ‘Imreoir to Bainisteoir’ exhibition launch at the GAA Museum in Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Colm Keys and Donnchadh Boyle

Reform of the Hurling Championship can be in place for 2018, GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl has suggested.

With changes for the 2018 football Championship in place, a A draft fixtures calendar, featuring a much more condensed programme, is expected to be presented to the June Central Council meeting that will reflect a much tighter time-frame for the completion of provincial championship especially and less gaps between All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.

But Ó Fearghaíl says broad outline plans for a hurling Championship revamp have been circulated to the relevant committees. The president did not discount the prospect of a Special Congress after the conclusion of this year's Championship where a new structure could be voted on.

"It can of course (happen in time for 2018)," he said at the launch of a new GAA museum exhibition featuring those who have won All-Ireland titles in hurling, camogie and football as players and managers.

Outline

"We need to do something similar (to football). We have the broad outline of a plan there. Again it will be Central Council that will lead on it. It has to be.

"But myself and the Árd Stiúrthóir (Paraic Duffy) have written to our various committees here and shown them a broad outline of a plan for the reform of the hurling Championship that would be broadly similar to football with more games at the end stages but again in a tighter period.

"It's the one thing in the whole debate that I absolutely accept: if you have a lot more inter-county games in football and you don't do something about hurling, that would have an effect on hurling," he said.

"I think we're going to reform the calendar in a positive way for clubs and there'll be space for clubs and more exciting competitions in both football and hurling. How Central Council chooses to deal with that is a matter for them, and it's a possibility we could have a Special Congress."

His comments come after the latest meeting between officials of the Club Players Association and senior GAA administrators where the CPA's suite of proposals on fixture reform were presented.

A tiered Championship and dedicated weekends for club activity only feature prominently in the CPA plans and they are keen for any Special Congress to accommodate a further discussion on reform of the Football Championship.

But after the introduction of an All-Ireland round-robin series in February, the wheels of change might turn a little slower for football.

Ó Fearghaíl said he couldn't tell if the latest CPA survey - over 70pc looking for tiered championships and 56pc looking for provincial championships to be scrapped - would have an impact.

"I really don't know. We have made a substantial change at Congress and we now, as a democratic organisation, have decided for the next three years we are going to have quite a different (structure)," he said.

The CPA reflected on their latest meeting in a statement yesterday where expediency was again stressed.

"We sought also to communicate the view of our members that there is an opportunity here to act with some urgency to change the fixtures landscape and remove the frustrations felt by grassroots GAA players," they said.

"Inclusion of fixtures proposals in any Special Congress to discuss other matters would be a good starting point. Our objective is to develop and produce plans that will benefit club and county players, and that will make our games stronger for the entire GAA community."

Meanwhile, inter-county players will be receiving their 2016 Government grants next week. Players will receive €519 to €1,066, based on performance in the 2016 football and hurling Championships.

Irish Independent

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