Duffy’s enlightening vision

This morning, GAA director general Páraic Duffy delivers his sixth and possibly penultimate annual report.

Duffy’s enlightening vision

Speaking two years ago, he said he had no plans to extend his contract beyond February 2015, joking self-deprecatingly that people would have enough of him by that stage.

Heralding his appointment in February 2008, then president Nickey Brennan said the GAA was in “good hands over the next seven years”.

Brennan has been proven right as Duffy’s level-headedness and foresight have been integral to the development of the organisation. Fixtures remain a difficulty and he’s been cast as a traditionalist in the sense that he’s opposed to the All-Ireland finals being brought forward from September to August and supports the continuation of the provincial championships.

To dub him as a conservative serves him poorly and is a misinterpretation of a realist who is acutely aware that customs aren’t worth breaking when the alternatives are inferior.

The issue of burnout rages on but it’s not as if he hasn’t attempted to address it with proposals such as the winter training moratorium and the scrapping of the U21 football championship in his brief as player welfare manager prior to succeeding Liam Mulvihill. His concerns for players are considerably more genuine than some others in officialdom.

And yet, stemming back to his Games Administration Committee days, he’s been highly influential in putting in place a disciplinary system that is rarely rocked these days. In time, the fruits of the Give Respect, Get Respect campaign for referees will also bud.

Intimately familiar with GAA politics over his 40-plus years as an official going back to his time as a club assistant secretary, the Monaghan man didn’t go into the position blind about the enormity of the role nor the democratic binds that restricts it.

But surely he must be frustrated by the limitations of his executive power. His discussion paper on payments to managers was a thought-provoking document, which merited more debate than county boards offered it.

The option to permit a regulated payment of managers, while snubbed, was a strong indication of not only Duffy’s modernising streak but determination to end the hypocrisy so rife among county boards.

That’s not to say he doesn’t possess authority. When we hear the Management Committee (Coiste Bainisti) have made a recommendation, more often than not it’s coming from Duffy. But too often he’s had to don the cape and come to the rescue. But for his intervention in introducing the black card, the original Football Review Committee proposal to curb cynicism would have failed at Congress on grounds of confusion.

Last year, he recognised the difficulties that existed with the structure of the National Hurling League. He afforded Central Council the opportunity to revisit a seriously flawed format. That they decided to retain it wasn’t his fault. He had done something similar in 2011 when, in the face of revolt from eight hurling counties, he proposed a compromise structure, which succeeded in dousing the flames. In 2008 and ‘09, he took a lead role in attempts to broker the end of player strikes in Cork.

Should Duffy, 62 next year, decide or be convinced to remain on, few will have reason to gripe. His tenure has been an enlightening one.

Should he leave office in 12 months’ time, the concern is the confined margins of the job may put off strong candidates.

With president Liam O’Neill also bowing out next year, the ideal situation would be Duffy to remain on for a little longer. That and giving him more freedom to impress more of his vision upon the organisation. Hasn’t he done enough to earn that trust after six years?

* Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie

Agenda against Nash grows

So, not one but two motions aimed at Anthony Nash will be on the clár of Congress next month. By now he could be forgiven if he feels it has become a mite too personal.

Clarinbridge and Galway have made no secret that their motion at banning hurleys larger than the regulation size in scoring was provoked by the Kanturk keeper’s successful strikes using one last year.

We can expect Cork will vote to defend their man to the hilt in Croke Park — and just who will support them? Clare, whose Davy Fitzgerald scored plenty with a larger bás stick? Wexford, whose Damien Fitzhenry was such a skilled dead-ball merchant with a bigger base hurley? Fitzhenry made the point last week that if the rule is to be introduced then referees must be as vigilant about the size of outfield players’ hurleys, which he claims have increased just as much as those of keepers.

But just how realistic is that when the motion only has one person in mind?

Ring of steel cuts oxygen to cynicism

This column was erroneously cynical about the GAA’s campaign against pitch invasions in Croke Park four years ago.

Sentimentality coloured our opinion. Anybody who witnessed the jubilant eruptions at the Gaelic Grounds or Clones last July might have been equally seduced by the romance of it all.

News last week that there were no personal injury claims — and not three as was reported — arising from the pitch invasion at the Munster final shouldn’t detract from the serious safety concerns about such uncontrolled mass movements of people.

But what changed our view was the liberation and comfort victorious and defeated players were afforded by stewards at the final whistle. When so often before the sense of occasion was lost on the winners and the losers’ dejection made worse by onrushing opposing fans, that sanctuary is the least they deserve.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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