This afternoon, John Horan will be sworn in as the 39th president of the GAA. His in-tray will be stacked although items will have to be prioritised. Here John Fogarty breaks down the pile into those he can win and those he can bin.
The new senior football and hurling formats commence for a three-year period this summer and it’s highly likely the football system, at least, will last as long as Horan’s term in office. It will be in his final months in the position that a new structure will have to be formulated.
Along with the new director general, Horan will have a major say in how it is fashioned and for the sake of the game let’s hope it is tiered.
At the outset of his presidency, Aogán Farrell was talking about it and Páraic Duffy has mentioned it regularly but neither were able to see it through. While the calendar year format looks a neat fit and makes a lot of sense Horan must be careful not to discommode dual counties that already feel the strain of fixture scheduling.
Horan was seated across from his former St Vincent’s pupil, ex-GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell, during the negotiations for the current agreement between the GAA and the official inter-county players’ body.
Talks broke down at one stage before a deal was made. The agreement elapses next year and while Horan is unlikely to be at the table again the next meeting of parties happens on his watch. The scaremongering about the Club Players Association also has to be stopped. It’s on the GAA that they have been established. If they act as a conscience, what’s the problem?
The 59-year-old is a proud Na Fianna man and will likely hand over another Sam Maguire Cup to a fellow county man in the coming three years. That being said, if Dublin continue to be successful he is likely to face a lot of questions about the significant funding the county receive and what other equalisation measures can be taken. In his time as Leinster chairman, Dublin were taken out of Croke Park for Leinster quarter-finals but more will be required if the Dubs remain at the top of the heap.
The current standoff in Northern Ireland politics certainly doesn’t help a project that has struggled to get off the ground. It’s 12 months this week that the revised planning application was submitted. Horan knows he can only do so much but he will appreciate the lack of a major GAA stadium in Belfast is a matter of huge concern.
Although a pay-per-view motion may make the Clár of Annual Congress last year, the next round of major media rights deals probably won’t take place until the latter half of 2021 by which time Horan will have served his time. A change in policy is unlikely to take place while he is at the helm but Horan is smart enough to know it’s an issue that won’t go away. If he can ensure a compromise can be agreed in principle, or even propel the GAA towards creating their own TV channel, it will be a job well done.
Certainly shouldn’t be for binning but at the end of 2016 his predecessor Farrell flew a kite about a day when the GAA’s ties to the tricolour and Amhrán na bhFiann mightn’t be as powerful as they are now.
It’s not a notion Horan need revisit. The GAA has to meet more checks and balances than any other sports organisation. Its attachment to Irish nationality is something it shouldn’t apologise for.
Both Duffy and Farrell are supporters of the hybrid game and it’s understandable that many in the Association value that Gaelic players have an opportunity to play for their country but the genuine bona fides of the GAA in this partnership are not matched in the AFL.
Yes, they’ve been putting out strong sides these last three occasions but International Rules is just a marketing tool for them. A loss leader, if you will. Before they close up shop, the GAA could.
By this stage, Horan will have appointed his Central Competitions Control Committee chairman and the message, if Horan has been taken the soundings of hurling managers and players, will be that floodlit hurling is an oxymoron. The participants detest them. Obviously, the GAA has a TV rights deal where some league games are floodlit but encouraging matches like the Division 1 final to be played under lights goes against what most in hurling are saying.
A quirky one nevertheless an issue that strikes at the heart of Gaelic games’ integrity. Horan can instruct his medical, scientific and welfare committee to come up with a new means of ensuring that the blood substitution rule isn’t abused as it is now by teams who interpret it a means of using a seventh substitute in football and sixth in hurling.
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