Rest of Ireland competition could be answer to Galway ‘unfairness’, says Aogán Ó Fearghail

Galway are getting a raw deal from Leinster and Croke Park are aiming to come to their aid, GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail has revealed.

Earlier this month, Leinster chairman John Horan said the stand-off with Galway about home advantage in the province’s senior hurling championship and access to the under-age hurling competitions had become a matter for the organisation at national level. While GAA director general Páraic Duffy admitted it required wider discussion.

Ó Fearghail, who doesn’t support the idea of Galway joining Munster, said it’s his intention to address the county’s situation in the form of a proposal next year.

“I see a total unfairness in the situation and I think you need to look at it and Páraic and myself have already decided, we’re being consistent in everything we’re doing, we haven’t been setting up work groups to go away and do things, we deal with it ourselves and we will deal with it and we are going to address it and we’ll address it almost immediately when Congress is finished.”

Although Liam Mellows have put forward a motion at next month’s annual convention to allow Galway to explore the possibility of joining Munster, Ó Fearghail is against it. “I’m not sure that’s a viable option, no, I really don’t. I think you are just moving something from one chair to another chair.

“Galway aren’t the only county impacted: Antrim are a county who at the moment are in the Christy Ring Cup. But when they play — and I’ve no doubt they will — back in the Liam MacCarthy they are a county whose position needs to be looked at. It’s a bit strange to see Antrim, for example, can play maybe in the Liam MacCarthy Cup at senior but yet their minors and U21s cannot.

“I think that whole package of where we are going with counties that are just at the fringe and yet have no opposition beside them — and that’s not being disrespectful to Derry or Down or Connacht where there is no opposition immediately beside them. We need to look at the complete package.

“And it’s a bit like the championship proposals in football: it’s going to be very limited what we can do. 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 in Leinster also. How do we solve this? It’s going to be difficult but we are not going to hide from it.”

Ó Fearghail says Leinster counties will have to acknowledge something must be done for Galway and Antrim. “We have to grasp the nettle and that’s Galway’s position and Antrim’s position. Other counties are just going to have to appreciate that.

“Have we reached the stage where we have a Munster championship and a rest of Ireland championship? We’ll have to put a number of proposals before these counties and let them see.”

“Certainly, Galway as a county I think they deserve to play a hurling match in Salthill in Pearse Stadium. 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.”

Ó Fearghail admits Duffy’s football championship recommendations take centre stage for now. “I said it very recently to management (committee), nothing should deflect us from that. We have to focus very strongly on the current proposals.

“We are at a crossroads stage in the GAA with regards our clubs and our inter- county. We need to address it and the current proposals are, in my opinion, the way to go. I agree with them completely. I think we need to bring them into the GAA, a growing number of people agree with that.”

Cork have countered Duffy’s proposal for a number of reasons including the impact it would have on hurling. But Ó Fearghail stated: “We can’t separate football and hurling fixtures, it’s just not possible. You can’t put a proper club county fixtures programme separate one from the other.

“The two are absolutely linked. You just cannot do it otherwise.

“You have to accept if we’re going to tighten – and it’s tighten that we need to do – it’s not the number of games: it’s the period over the calendar by which you play them.”

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