Enlightened' proposals backed

WESTMEATH county chairman Seamus Ó Faoláin has called the proposals to overhaul the hurling championship, "the most enlightened report from a hurling group towards counties involved in the second division of hurling".

"I have been working at the coal-face of this since 1986, and the reality of second division teams is they are the most difficult of all hurling counties to motivate. These proposals mean Division 2 sides will get a chance to play on big match occasions," he said.

The Westmeath chairman recalled an All-Ireland B HC final against Carlow in 1991 held before one the epic Dublin-Meath clashes.

He recalls how one Westmeath defender came in from that match and declared it the greatest day of his life, because he had just played in front of 70,000 people in Croke Park.

"These proposals give players in the second tier of hurling counties the chance to do the same.

"It gives the players something meaningful to play for. And I think the people involved in the proposals have to be given credit for that."

Among the proposals of the football task force was to abandon live televised games on a Saturday It is believed 'live' Saturday evening games are driving fans from club games.

However, the GAA have a contract with RTE to show matches on a Saturday and if the proposals were passed at Congress, the deal would have to be renegotiated "We are in constant touch with the GAA," said an RTE spokesperson. "At the moment, these are only at the proposal stage and whatever happens, they won't affect next year's championship anyway. We are not at liberty to comment on the internal affairs of the GAA, and it will only become a matter for us if it is passed at Congress."

In the Datapac Sigerson Cup draw made in Croke Park yesterday, holders NUI Galway were drawn to play UL in Limerick in the preliminary round. The other pick of the preliminary round tie sees Sligo IT travel to Jordanstown to take UUJ.

This year's competition will be hosted by St Mary's College, Belfast, who join the fray at the quarter-final stage with the finals weekend taking place on February 27/28.

Meanwhile in the Datapac Fitzgibbon Cup, holders Waterford IT will play either Mary Immaculate College Limerick or DIT in their first defence of the title. The Fitzgibbon weekend takes place at Athlone IT on March 5/6. Datapac also confirmed yesterday they would be sponsoring the event for another three years.

Meanwhile, with all the outgoing Limerick County Board officers returned unopposed, there was just one position to be filled on the retirement of coaching officer Tom Bulfin.

Into his place comes Kilmallock's John O'Donnell who beat off the challenge of Mungret's Martin Kiely.

Coming on the day that Croke Park shunned the board's proposed sponsorship deal with Red Bull, chairman Pat Fitzgerald painted a promising picture of the GAA scene in the county.

He did not dwell on the implications of the collapse of the package estimated to have been worth 1m over three years telling delegates that it was his duty to remain positive and guarded on the current financial situation.

Fitzgerald also accepted that the GAA were living in changing times and in a multi-cultural society. Racism, he warned, would not be tolerated.

Fitzgerald has promised to revitalise the coaching structures at club, divisional and county levels.

Treasurer Paddy Quilligan reported a deficit of 10,000 on their year's workings. Overall, he said, it had been a good year for the county board from a financial point of view.

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