The waiting game must end for club players

IMPROVING the lot of ordinary club players is a vital issue for the GAA and would continue to provide the real test of its strength, former GAA President Con Murphy told Cork’s annual convention in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

The issue of competitions being held up and important games deferred because of the involvement of their teams at inter-county level dominated debate.

And, fears for the future were not assuaged by a reduction in the number of games in the hurling and football championships. County Secretary Frank Murphy made the comment that since provincial councils were not willing to carry out their responsibility to monitor club competitions in the various counties, it needed strong leadership from the top.

“Until Central Council says to counties that they cannot abandon competitions in order to progress their teams and brings in sanctions, all the reports in the world will make no difference,” he said.

The debate was sparked by complaints about the number of walk-overs given in the various league competitions.

Sarsfields delegate Brian Lotty remarked that he had come to the meeting specifically to raise his concerns on the club versus county issue. He didn’t see the logic of the round robin system in hurling providing teams with so many chances of advancing.

In his view, any team that lost a game after getting a second chance should be ‘out.’ The downside was that clubs could be waiting up to five months to play their championship games and players and mentors finding it next to impossible to plan holidays.

“You have far too many ordinary club players who do not know when they are playing and the way this situation has gone in recent years is ludicrous,” he commented.

Former Board officer Donal Coleman agreed that it was the biggest problem facing the Association. He highlighted the frustration caused by the postponement of their senior hurling championship quarter-finals on August 13 (at the request of the Cork team management). His view was they needed to be ‘stricter’ in implementing the relevant bye-law which prevented inter-county players from playing with their clubs six days before provincial championship games and 13 days in the case of the All-Ireland series.

“If we did nothing else towards solving this problem we would be going a long way to make the clubs of this county happy,” he said.

Bishopstown delegate Jerry Buttimer suggested that they should seek a reduction in the number of inter-county panels from 30 to 24, but it was pointed out that this had been attempted unsuccessfully by Cork in the past.

Frank Murphy complained that committees appointed at national level to review inter-county programmes had come up with schemes which only added to an over-burdened programme.

And, he reminded delegates that ‘tinkering’ with the hurling championship — which took away the right of the Leinster and Munster champions to a bye to the All-Ireland semi-finals — resulted in three Sundays ‘being lost.’

Reminding delegates of the decisions reached at the recent Special Congress — which agreed to an extension of the current system for one more year (with the Liam MacCarthy Cup confined to 12 counties) — Murphy said that they had been ‘incorrectly’ refused the opportunity of submitting an alternative proposal in advance.

However, since then ‘a developing consensus’ appears to favour a new type system which would restrict the number of ‘second chance’ games.

It would involve a ‘round robin’ competition involving Antrim, Galway and the beaten first-round teams from the Munster and Leinster championships. The four losing semi-finalists would be involved in two games on a ‘cross provincial’ basis (knock-out) and the two winning teams would play the two teams that would emerge from the round robin series.

The next stage would see the two successful teams paired with the Munster and Leinster runners-up — with the respective provincial champions having a bye to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

“It does look as if this is about to be accepted on a consensus basis. If so, it would be a major improvement on the existing situation,” Murphy added.

New disciplinary procedures on the way

ANOTHER issue to concern clubs at convention was the introduction of the new disciplinary procedures in January. In brief, these will involve the establishment of Competitions Control Committees (in place of GAC’s), who will propose penalties which can either be accepted by the offending player/club or appealed to a separate (new) Hearings Committee.

It was pointed out that two subsidiary committees are being proposed for Cork county, one catering for the Carrigdhoun, Carbery, Beara and Muskerry divisions, and the other incorporating the City, Imokilly, Avondhu and Duhallow divisions.

Treasurer Pearse Murphy said that people should be disabused of the notion that the county was “awash” with money. If the Board were to proceed with the redevelopment of Páirc Ui Chaoimh, they would be placed under a major financial burden. County championship gate receipts had been down €40,000 on the 2005 figure.

There was only one contest, for the position of Cultural Officer, following the completion of Denis Lyons’ term. Chosen in his place was long-serving Castlehaven delegate James O’Neill, who is treasurer of the South-West Board. He defeated Paudie Kelleher (Ballingeary) by 144 votes to 55.

OFFICERS: Chairman — M. Dolan; Vice-Chairman — J. O’Sullivan; Secretary — F. Murphy; Treasurer — P. Murphy; Development Officer — D. Walsh; Coaching Officer — D. Cullinane; PRO — B. Ryan; Youth Officer — D. Gowen; Cultural Officer — J. O’Neill; Munster Council delegates — F. Murphy, C. Murphy; Central Council delegate — B. Honohan.

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