Saturday 17 February 2018

Knee-jerk round-robin won't cure ills - Griffin

Griffin hopes common sense prevails over “an out-dated, past its sell-by-date” system. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Griffin hopes common sense prevails over “an out-dated, past its sell-by-date” system. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Liam Griffin has described the proposed changes to hurling's Championship structures as "a knee-jerk reaction to football's Super 8" and believes it will not be a viable solution to the game's major problems of club fixtures and player drop-out.

The 1996 All-Ireland-winning Wexford manager favours a "master fixture plan" to cater for the needs of all GAA stakeholders and doesn't believe a round-robin format at the provincial stage, which includes home and away games for all counties including Galway, will get to the root of the problem.

Through his work as CPA fixtures co-ordinator, Griffin and Co have hit resistance with their plan to "fix the fixtures" but as they meet today to discuss recent meetings with GAA's top brass, they still feel a one-for-all solution can be found.

"The Super 8 is an incremental change and the history of the GAA has been continuous incremental change; I'm not being critical of democracy, sometimes it's built to suit and sometimes it's not but almost 90pc of club players are saying they're dissatisfied," he told RTÉ's GAA Podcast.

"We're appealing for 'listen lads, we're all GAA people, why can't we stand back and look at the whole thing in its entirety and come up with a master plan?'. What I was shocked to hear from Páraic Duffy the other night was that we can't have two tiers in football, even though 70pc of our members voted for that.

"We eventually presented three plans last Wednesday night but they can solve the problems for both the club player, the inter-county player, the spectator, the future and the anomalies whereby you play a club championship in March of the following year, which is a 15-month season.

"Dublin had to do without their top players and got relegated from the top division - and what happens when a county like Dublin or Offaly goes into tailspin? They are allowed to stay in a tailspin until they correct it themselves."

Griffin hopes common sense prevails over "an out-dated, past its sell-by-date" system and staunchly believes you need to start from scratch as "you cannot run a fair All-Ireland series with a broken-down provincial system in it".

Direction

While Cyril Farrell also hopes club players will be prioritised in the proposed system, with a meeting in June deciding whether the proposal is voted on at GAA Congress or at a Special Congress, he believes it's a step in the right direction to prevent hurling being "dwarfed" by football.

"Something has to be done and hurling would be gone off the map without a change, maybe people will get sick of all the football matches, but at the same time, you wouldn't be getting enough hurling matches, and that's the time of the year for it," Irish Independent columnist Farrell said.

Unlike Griffin, Farrell feels that with the Munster and Leinster SHC "as competitive as ever", the provincial competitions have to be maintained for now, if for nothing more than because "the new system wouldn't get through without keeping the provinces because officers won't pass it through".

The three-time All-Ireland-winning Galway boss expects the home and away system to re-energise the Championship, with provincial grounds benefitting from taking games away from a relatively empty and "eerie" Croke Park or Semple Stadium.

GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghaíl also indicated that an agreement with Leinster Council on senior games going across the border into Galway was close, and Farrell welcomes the levelling of the playing fields for the Tribesmen on a host of levels.

"It'd be fantastic and if you look at the business end of it, Thurles on a Munster final day, it takes over the town and it's as good as Christmas for them. If Clare were at home and bringing 10,000 to Ennis, that brings huge trade to the local area and promotes the game. It's a win-win," he said.

"When it happens and teams come to Galway they'll wonder what they were afraid of in the first place. And everything can't be always gravitating towards Dublin forever too because if we're not careful all the games, all the business, all the people will go towards the cities. If we're not careful we'll have all those cities bulging and the rest of the country like a theme park."

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