Second tier won't tie hands of GAA fixtures group, insists Horan

Second tier won't tie hands of GAA fixtures group, insists Horan
Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

GAA president John Horan maintains the new fixtures review committee won’t be hamstrung by Special Congress’ decision yesterday to introduce a second tier inter-county football championship next year.

After over three-quarters of delegates backed the model which resembles the short-lived Tommy Murphy Cup, the fixtures group commissioned by Horan will soon reveal their recommendations although some of their work was revealed by the Irish News newspaper on Saturday.

“The interesting feature is that the work going on with the fixtures review committee at the moment includes Tier Two in them all.

Somebody has told me that some of that has leaked from the committee which is somewhat disappointing, but I think that is going to be a comprehensive document and it is going to provoke a lot of discussion. I have been very open to that coming on the table.

“If they are going to come forward with proposals as regards to fixtures and they have a tier two in it, they know there is an acceptance within the organisation to go for a tier two, so that just gives them a bit of a surer footing.”

As well as Carlow chairman Seán Campion, Antrim chairman Ciarán MacCavana had spoken strongly against the motion.

Both highlighted how promises about a heightened profile for hurling’s second tier Joe McDonagh Cup were never delivered and they feared the same would happen for its football equivalent.

Naturally, McCavana expressed disappointment at Special Congress’ decision.

“That’s democracy, I just personally think the motion was a wee bit loose, a wee bit all over the place – ‘what ifs, there might be, maybe games will be played before an All-Ireland final, maybe funds for players to go away, maybe an All-Stars.’

“Possibly, it was the auditor in me, the accountant in me, I just would have liked to see a tighter motion.

"I also think that we are still having a review of games structures, so the motion should have went after that.

“The reality is people talk about this great system in the hurling but if you go to Croke Park for the lower tier hurling competitions it is hard for counties to even give away free tickets.

"You want something for young people to aspire to play in, that is Croke Park on All-Ireland day, lifting the Sam Maguire, you want them to play in front of big crowds.

My fear, to be honest, is you won’t have big crowds because the teams will have already played each other in the National League.

The name for the new competition is expected to be confirmed next month.

Meanwhile, Horan revealed both he and GAA director general Tom Ryan raised concerns with the standing rules committee about the new sin bin being run down by teams down to 14 men or less.

However, they were told there was little or no evidence of such cynicism occurring.

As the rule stipulates, a player who picks up a black card will sit out the next 10 minutes, which doesn’t take into consideration delays.

As a result, the maximum number of substitutes will return to five from six.

The advanced mark will also come into operation in Gaelic football meaning a mark can now be called anywhere on the field.

On top of the kick-out mark between the two 45 metre lines that is already in existence, a player within either 45m line can call a mark providing they have signalled for it having caught the ball cleanly from a kick 20m or more from outside the 45m line.

Former GAA national match officials manager Pat Doherty warned on Saturday of it overburdening referees but Horan countered: “The three handpass thing earlier in the year, the referees made it known very quickly that they had an issue but there was no clamour from referees over the advanced mark being an issue.

“The number of advanced marks in the league weren’t massive. Maybe that’s because teams didn’t adapt to it because they knew they weren’t going to be using it in the Championship.”

In a Special Congress where the main session lasted less than 90 minutes, all three playing rules motions, including all kick-outs, were passed with healthy majorities and will come into operation for all new competitions from next month.

Also on Saturday, Central Council agreed that the U20 All-Ireland football championship would return to a spring schedule increasing the chances of those playing in it also being allowed to line out for their seniors

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