Disciplinary system is fine, insists chief Duffy

THE GAA has no plans to alter its disciplinary system despite recent calls for it to be overhauled.

Presidential candidate Liam O’Neill last week claimed the existing process was “very dragged out” and proposed that the Central Competitions Controls Committee be disbanded.

But the GAA’s director general Paraic Duffy yesterday hailed the system as a success.

Duffy insisted: “I think it’s working much better. We’ve had one controversial incident this summer which had nothing to do with the CCCC and that was the Louth-Meath game.

“I’ve said all along we should give this system time to bed down. Over the past number of weeks we’ve had no hearings, players have accepted bans and moved on.”

O’Neill has proposed that a three-man body be established to review the weekend’s games on a Monday morning, with that group made up of a lawyer who specialises in sports law, a person of standing within the GAA and a neutral from a different sporting organisation.

“Liam is entitled to his view but the system has worked much better” Duffy insisted. “There are no plans at the moment to change it. Absolutely none.”

Duffy revealed that the CCCC will also look to make grabbing a faceguard to swing a player to the ground in an aggressive manner a red card offence. But such changes will have to wait until congress.

“The rule currently is that it’s a yellow card offence but I don’t think the rule envisaged that we would have this aggressive pulling of fellas around. We’ve come to the conclusion that we will have to amend the rule at congress next year. We have a concern at the number of aggressive pulling incidents. We had looked at the possibility of interpreting it as some form of dangerous play but we can’t do that.

“We’ll just have to wait to implement a rule in congress next year that is more specific. Our view is that pulling a fella around by his faceguard probably should be a red card. We just can’t put a short term fix on it so we hope that the players will be responsible.”

Negative publicity surrounding attendances during the championship was also addressed by Duffy, who revealed that the GAA was “very happy” that they would be breaking through the million barrier with this weekend’s four football quarter-finals at Croke Park. He understands criticism of ticket prices but defends the GAA’s policy, arguing that a reduction would not lead to more people coming through the stiles.

He also pointed to the value packages being offered to families and club members.

“I’d love to say attendances were up but that was never going to happen (given the economic climate) and we’re very happy with the level of attendances. A million people will have come to the games by this weekend. If we had knocked €5 off the price of every ticket, our revenue would drop by €5million. Of that, 80% goes back to the association. In terms of what we give back to our counties, provinces and clubs, that would be a huge drop.

“I don’t know that dropping prices by €5 would make any difference to the attendances. You’d probably have to slash the prices to make a huge difference and the impact on the association of cutting €5m out of our income — and it would be more by the time the All-Irelands are over — would be huge.

“We are very conscious of where people are. U-16s are €5, with a family ticket, you can bring two, three or four kids at a fiver each… clubs can buy a package of €10 each for Sunday. That’s incredible if you get 10 guys who’d like to go together. Even with the same number of people as last year, our revenue will drop because we have more and more packages. So I think we are making it as attractive as we possibly can but I do understand the criticism.”

Duffy was speaking at the launch of the M Donnelly Poc Fada which will take place at Annaverna Mountain Ravensdale this weekend. Defending champions Gerry Fallon from Roscommon faces stiff competition this year, which includes Tipperary sharpshooter Eoin Kelly. Kelly answered an SOS from organisers after former Wexford goalkeeper, Damien Fitzhenry pulled out after failing to recover in time with a knee injury.

Poc Fada draw: Ruairi Convery (Derry) v Donall O’Brien (Laois); Gerry Fallon (Roscommon) v James Skehill (Galway); Graham Clarke (Down) v Eoin Kelly (Tipperary); Eoin Reilly (Laois v Karol Keating (Down); James McGarry (Kilkenny) v Neil Hackett (Meath); Brendan McNamara (Clare) v Seamus Coffey (Cork).

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