Páraic Duffy: We're not going to run GAA by Twitter
Relationships between the GAA and the players' representative groups are heading for an icy period following Saturday's Congress decisions on inter-county championships and recognition issues.
The interaction between Croke Park and the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) will be especially interesting, arising from the changing of the format for the football championship from next year.
Meanwhile, the fledgling Club Players Association (CPA) had its bid for official recognition stymied when Tipperary and Wexford agreed to withdraw their motion seeking to give the CPA the same status as the GPA.
It came following a suggestion from former GAA president Nickey Brennan that a vote be deferred, pending engagement with the CPA which was only founded last month. It's highly probable that if the Tipperary/Wexford motion went to a vote, it would have been well beaten.
"We don't want to send out the wrong message to club players," said Brennan. CPA chairman Micheál Briody said yesterday that they would not be commenting on the matter until after their executive had met.
Brennan's intervention was a clever diplomatic move but there was no such harmony between the GPA and Croke Park over the changes to the football championship.
"A slap in the face" was the description by recently-appointed GPA CEO Dermot Earley, who accused the GAA of ignoring the players' wishes - a claim flatly denied by director-general Páraic Duffy.
"I'm disappointed on behalf of the players. The big issue is that they felt they weren't consulted. Páraic (Duffy) would have felt that a lot of consultation took place but there's still a disconnect between going down and talking to players and going and speaking to clubs.
"We actually surveyed our players, got down to each and every county panel and they came back quite unanimously that they were against this (change of format). They (Croke Park) might have said they consulted with everyone but they didn't consult with the players, which is what we did," said Earley.
Duffy denied the charge, pointing out that the 'round robin' proposal was on the agenda since last August.
"This has been debated for six months and it passed on a 74-26 (per cent) vote today. That's democracy. The GPA took their decision and that's their right. But as Jarlath Burns said here today, 'We're all members of GAA clubs.' Anyone can send a motion forward for discussion. Players are all members of clubs and have the same right as I or Aogán (ó Fearghail) or anyone else to bring motions to their own clubs. I think the process we saw today was extremely democratic," said Duffy.
What exactly constitutes consultation seems to be an issue between Croke Park and the GPA, which is heavily funded from GAA coffers.
Earley said that he would be "drilling down hard" into the consultation area.
"Everybody has to have an input. Whether we lock ourselves in a room in Croke Park or somewhere in the country for a weekend where we look for consensus because at the moment I don't think we have consensus," he said.
The GPA now plans to survey its members again and work off whatever mandate they agree. Pressed on whether there might be a player revolt against the new format, Earley said that it was too early to predict what would happen.
"We'll survey the whole inter-county playing body and see what they say. Let them make their decision and then we will act on their behalf. It's disappointing that the players' opinions were ignored and I think you'll see reaction over the next week," said Earley.
Meanwhile, Duffy is clearly alarmed by the perception of a widening gap between players (club and county) and administrators. He said that he had met four times with the CPA and the first two meetings were 'extremely positive'.
"We didn't change the narrative since then. I have never said one negative thing about the CPA. The strongest thing I said was that I was disappointed they rejected the proposals (on championship reform) out of hand."
When it was pointed out to him that some managers and players - both former and current - had attacked the new format on social media, Duffy said it was everyone's right to express an opinion.
"They are perfectly entitled to do that but we're not going to run the GAA by Twitter," he said.
Duffy was surprised by the harsh nature of some comment in recent weeks.
"I didn't like some of the discourse around it. I thought a lot of the debate was angry. That's unfortunate," he said.
Away from the dynamic between Croke Park and the players' representatives, there's certain to be unease among the hurling community over football's increased presence at the glamour part of the championship season. The 'round robin' will add eight matches to a football championship which already had twice as many games as hurling.
Duffy said Croke Park were 'open to looking at the hurling structure' but the greater demand had come from football.
"If the hurling community wish to look at their championship, we'll be happy to do that but I wouldn't try to force it. We looked at football because the demand was there. We'll make sure that hurling is not dwarfed," he said.
Hurling faces an immediate issue following the withdrawal of a Galway motion seeking to have their senior, U-21 and minor teams join the seniors in the Leinster Championship.
It followed behind-the-scenes discussions but the problem still persists as Galway want full integration into Leinster, whose counties are unwilling to accommodate the minors and U-21s.
"We said we'll address that issue as soon as we possibly can," said Duffy.
Congress in some mood for change on weekend of important motion
A good Congress that got a lot of important work done was the description by president Aogán Ó Fearghail following Saturday’s marathon haul through 56 motions. Here is how the main ones fared with the percentage vote in brackets.
- Replace the All-Ireland senior football quarter-finals with two groups of four, playing off in ‘round robin’ format, with the top two in each group advancing to the semi-finals. It will apply on an experimental basis for three years from 2018.(76-24)
- Play the All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals in August on dates to be decided by Central Council. It will come into effect in 2018 on an experimental basis for three years. It’s likely that the football final will be on the last Sunday in August with the hurling final a week earlier. (78-22)
- From 2018, play extra-time in all drawn championship games, other than provincial finals and All-Ireland finals. (91-9)
- Gaelic Players Association (GPA) to have their representation to Congress increased from one to two delegates and be allowed to put forward one motion each year. (69-31)
- Reduce from 66.6pc (two-thirds) to three-fifths (60pc) the margin required to change a rule at annual Congress.(70-30)
- Reduce from five to three the number of players who can play for an inter-county team under special eligibility provisions.
- Allow Christy Ring Cup winners to play in the All-Ireland championship in the same year.
- Players, teams, management and match officials are strictly prohibited from betting on the outcome of any aspect of a game in which they are involved. (100-0)
- Play Round 1 of the All-Ireland football qualifiers in ‘round robin’ format, involving 16 counties in four groups of four, with the top two in each advancing to the next round. (25-75)
- Allow players aged over 16 years rather than 17 years to play in adult club competitions.(41-59)
- Replace the All-Ireland U-21 hurling championship with an U-20 championship. (44-56)
- Replace the intermediate hurling championships with an U-25 championships (12-88)
- That Galway’s minor, U-21 and intermediate hurling teams join the county’s seniors in the Leinster hurling championship. “We don’t want to be divisive. We hope we’ll be talking with everyone and moving this on together in the next couple of weeks,” said Galway county board chairman Pat Kearney.
- That the newly-formed Club Players’ Association (CPA) be recognised as the official representative body for club players.
- Reduce from 66.6pc to 50pc the margin required to change a rule at Congress.