By John Fogarty
In his final annual report, GAA director general Páraic Duffy has called on the organisation to reconsider its view on the amateur status.
Eight years after the Association chose to maintain its rules on amateurism, despite Duffy’s personal preference to allow coaches and managers extra financial allowances and conditions, the Monaghan native feels the needle must be grasped once more as the issue has developed particularly at club level.
Duffy, who accepts a lot of members are against paying managers “yet no one seems able to stop the practice”, revealed the GAA’s management committee are considering a means of strengthening the rule concerning amateur status but questions the approach, believing that it wouldn’t stop the organisation being open to claims of hypocrisy.
“I doubt if a change of rule on its own will make much difference. GAA rules that are difficult to monitor, or that confront comfortable ways of doing things, tend to be ignored.
“The great difficulty we face is that we are challenging deeply embedded attitudes that inform our behaviour, and that are therefore difficult to debate. But we need to find a way to instigate the debate we avoided in 2010.
“It may be bruising and may take time, but it will provide an opportunity to begin to change the existing payments culture and to come to a position consistent with our declared values.
“I wrote in 2010 that the choice facing the Association was a simple one: either we do nothing in the certain knowledge that nothing will change - that in five or 10 years we would still be lamenting the damage to our ethos and values – or we decide that it would be irresolute and defeatist not to confront directly a practice that we proclaim to be a blemish on the Association. The choice is the same one now, and the need to address it even greater.”
In the report, Duffy also addressed criticism of Dublin’s strength, defending the efforts made in the capital to strengthen Gaelic games as Jim Gavin’s senior football side hope this year to attain a fourth consecutive All-Ireland title.
Duffy pointed out the one-point nature of their victories in four of their All-Ireland successes this decade. He also dismissed those who want Dublin to be split.
“One is led to wonder if the “divide Dublin” proponents have given any thought to what the GAA would lose if Dublin were to be split. Have they given any thought to what Dubliners would lose? And is the sight of Dublin supporters on Hill 16 not one of the great spectacles in Irish sport?
"And are we not all looking forward to seeing Dublin supporters in their thousands heading out of the city to follow their team, which the championship format from 2018 will allow?”
The Ard Stiúrthóir claimed that a tiered football championship is the future, saying: “In 2018 the All-Ireland hurling championships will consist of five competitions at All-Ireland level. In football, there is only one, a structure that is not sustainable”.
He mentioned that the Super 8 structure in operation for this year and the following two seasons is “likely to be a temporary arrangement in that it will allow the Association time to devise a system that will meet the needs of less successful counties”.
The calendar year, an idea he has supported for some time now, is the next step towards restructuring the season, he argued.
“Bringing forward the All-Ireland finals now makes a calendar-year schedule a more realistic option than at any time in the past”.
Duffy outlined that a workgroup led by GAA president Liam O’Neill had backed the calendar year on the basis of six improvements such as allowing counties field their best teams in the Allianz Leagues, winter training unnecessary for clubs that qualify for the All-Ireland Club championships semi-finals and providing a more compact and logical schedule of matches.
Concerning the Brendan O’Sullivan positive doping test, Duffy rejected the suggestion last year that the GAA “always come across as fulfilling its anti-doping duties at the point of a bayonet”.
He stressed: “These assertions fed a craving for sensationalism that was also utterly untrue”. He believes there is a pressing need to introduce a compulsory anti-doping education module for any player before they are permitted onto a county panel.
Duffy also lashed out at those who accused the Central Competitions Control Committee of entrapping Antrim footballer Matthew Fitzpatrick following an incident in the Division 3 game against Armagh last year.