Tuesday 18 December 2018

Martin Breheny: Hurling vote shows up faults in GAA version of democracy

Breheny Beat

The vote at the recent Special Congress which has changed the hurling landscape. Photo: Sportsfile
The vote at the recent Special Congress which has changed the hurling landscape. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Something unusual happened at last month's Special Congress which, depending on your stance, was either a triumph for democracy or a blatant disregard for those who will be most affected by the decision.

In my view, it falls very much into the latter category and is the latest example of an increasing fragmentation in the GAA which risks taking it in an unwelcome direction.

Basically, five of the ten counties who will play in next year's Leinster and Munster senior championships had their objections to the introduction of a 'round robin' format ignored. Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny and Dublin all voiced various doubts but it was passed anyway on a 62-38 per cent majority.

With a 60 per cent majority required to effect the change, it was a tight call and would certainly not have been reached without the backing of many counties for whom the decision was utterly irrelevant.

input Weaker counties may be right to point out that their brethren from the traditional strongholds did little enough for them down the years but that still doesn't justify flipping power to such a degree that it becomes perverse.

For example, why should the likes of Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo, Monaghan and Fermanagh have the same input as the top hurling counties in deciding how the All-Ireland should be run?

The same goes for overseas units, who do great work in promoting the GAA abroad. However, that should not give them the same rights as 'home' counties in making decisions on competition structures. The GAA has always prided itself on its democratic structures but this is taking it too far.

Now here's the interesting thing. There was a time when counties would have shown some degree of solidarity towards each other. Not anymore, it seems.

If camaraderie applied at the recent Special Congress, most counties outside Tier 1 would have stood by Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny and Dublin on the basis that since they themselves weren't being impacted upon, they would back those who were. After all, it wasn't a small pocket of resistance, but rather a huge swathe of top hurling territory.

Yet, despite that, many counties supported the 'round robin' proposal, presumably on the basis that if it was being backed by Central Council it must have merit. If that were the reason, it showed poor judgement.

It did, however, display a disregard for others but then that appears to be a growing trend.

If the Club Players' Association (CPA) are to be believed, the disconnect between the majority who ply their trade at local level, the elite and the administrators is dangerously wide. They point to haphazard club fixtures programmes and what they perceive as indifference by the authorities towards the plight of club players.

It's simmering away in the background, with the temperature rising all the time. Indeed, it will be no surprise if the CPA adopt a more militant approach next year.

After all, they saw how successful the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) were in taking their agenda into mainstream policy through a combination of push and pull.

Question is - why was there a need for the GPA in the first place? If the GAA had reacted more favourably to a players' movement when it was launched in the early 1980s, most of the issues which underpinned the GPA's launch much later would have been sorted out. Instead, Croke Park froze it out, only to be faced with a much more militant version later on.

The same goes for the CPA now. It's seeking a better deal for club players but why is it necessary? If everyone agrees they are being badly treated, why not sort it out, something that surely isn't beyond the imagination of counties and Croke Park.

Having said that, the latest template is not encouraging. Jamming in the hurling and football leagues between late January/late March isn't exactly best promotion of the only competition that's fair to all. Leaving April free for clubs won't work because most county managers will demand full access to their squad members. And, as for bringing forward the All-Ireland hurling and football finals, it will merely close out September as a promotional goldmine while doing little for the club scene.

Incoming GAA president John Horan is expected to announce a Strategic Review of the entire GAA when he takes office in February. It will have a heavy agenda because right now vested interests of all persuasions are pulling against each other on a grand scale.

Six county finals - 360 minutes of action, not a single goal

Take your points and the goals will come. It's advice that's probably as old as football itself but it doesn't always work out like that. Well, not anymore anyway.

No fewer than six senior county finals (Antrim, Cork, Donegal, Kildare, Offaly, Tyrone) failed to produce a single goal between them last Sunday.

It seems almost inconceivable that the top 12 clubs in six counties could play for six hours without scoring a single goal.

Ten points were enough for Omagh to win in Tyrone; 0-11 took 13-man Moorefield to a two-point win over Celbridge in Kildare, while 0-12 steered Rhode to a three-point win over Clara in Offaly.

The lowest-scoring winners were Kilcar who beat Naomh Conaill by 0-7 to 0-4 in a Donegal final that produced just two points (one each) in the second half. It was Kilcar's first county title success for 24 years so they won't be concerned with the manner in which they achieved it.

Man of the match Mark McHugh must surely be leading contender for delivering the understatement of the year afterwards: "We didn't care how we won. We're not in the entertainment business."

You don't say, Mark!

Leagues miss chance for bumper opening night

For all their undoubted powers, computers can't be expected to figure out the relative strengths of county teams or what makes an attractive fixture.

They need a guiding hand from those who know such things but clearly it wasn't forthcoming when the fixtures list for next year's Allianz Leagues were being compiled. Dublin footballers and hurlers begin their campaigns against Kildare and Offaly respectively in a Croke Park double-header on January 27. It was a chance to have both All-Ireland champions showcasing the league launch in Croke Park. Instead Galway hurlers are paired 'away' with Dublin on February 25.

So why not have slotted Galway, managed by Micheál Donoghue, into the opening night for a clash with Dublin in what would have been their first competitive game under Pat Gilroy?

His appointment will greatly increase interest in Dublin hurling and a clash with the All-Ireland champions would have further whetted the appetite and boosted the crowd. Instead, It's Dublin v Leinster opposition on the double, while Galway begin their league campaign at home to Antrim on the following day.

Irish Independent

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