Central Council on Saturday backed a motion for next month’s Congress, which entails removing the eight Division 4 teams from the All-Ireland qualifiers and placing them in their own “B” competition with the winners guaranteed a place in the backdoor the following season. Should the proposal receive two-thirds majority support on February 27, it will come into operation next year.
O’Brien says the decision has disenfranchised the Division 4 teams. “It’s like adults talking in a room about the children when they are present and ignoring them. I don’t remember the Division 4 teams being called together and asked their opinion on what’s best for them. This decision from on high seems to be ‘we know what’s best for ye’.
“It’s evident our views of a ‘B’ championship don’t count for a lot. It’s not in our best interests. The league is an accurate gauge and tells you where you stand. We have no contention with that but when it comes to the championship there should be inclusiveness. I don’t follow soccer much but when it comes to the FA Cup even non-league teams can compete. They may even have a home draw against a Premier League team. It’s mindboggling that they think this is the way forward. If this is in the name of promoting football, I despair. It’s a slap in the face of footballers in the weaker counties.”
Like the second-tier competition, the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) had also shortlisted a restructure proposal by Carlow, which called for teams to be graded on their league standings and weaker teams to be pitted against one another in the early stages of the qualifiers.
“That was dismissed out of hand and the counter arguments (made by the CCCC) against it were spurious,” claimed O’Brien.
“They claimed it would delay the championship by up to three months when in fact it would have done the exact opposite — the provinces and the qualifiers would take place at more or less the same time. If the Carlow proposal had come from Cork or Kerry I believe it would have been taken more seriously. In no way did it demean provincial championships. All it proposed was a slight restructure and seeding teams after the first season.”
As part of the restructure, the 16 non-Division 4 counties who do not reach their provincial finals will enter the first round of the qualifiers.
The winners will face each other in the second round before they are drawn against the provincial runners-up in round three. As per current structure, the provincial winners qualify for the All-Ireland quarter-finals. In rounds one and two, the county from the lower division will have home advantage.
Should a Division 4 team reach their provincial final, they will be permitted to continue in the All-Ireland championship with their place in the “B” competition taken by the lowest-placed Division 3 team that has been eliminated in their province.
Meanwhile, on the basis of feedback from GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s over-training, burnout, and fixtures discussion paper, Central Council have made alterations to motions, which will go forward to the forthcoming Congress.
In the wake of opposition to Duffy’s suggestion to ditch the U21 All-Ireland football championship, an alternative U20 competition has been endorsed by Ard Chomhairle. The U20 championship, open to players between the ages of 18 and 20 who haven’t been in a senior inter-county match-day panel, would take place on midweek over the months of June and July from 2018 with all games to be decided on the evening. If the counties can’t be separated after extra-time a sudden death free-taking competition will take place.
The compromise, Central Council believes, will meet the player-development need at inter-county level between the proposed new minor level (U17) and senior competition; reduce the pressures on players juggling their U21 commitments with school and college examinations; cut down on the competitions in the January-April period; have little impact on the playing of minor and adult club competitions respectively and schedule the U20 championship in traditionally good weather months of June and July.
Part of Duffy’s document also called for the facility of replays to be removed from all provincial and All-Ireland senior championship games, both football and hurling. In recent weeks, Duffy and GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail heard strong cases primarily based on financial concerns against provincial and All-Ireland finals losing replays. However, they acknowledged the status of such games merit a replays and have therefore provided for them in the revised motion, which was backed by Central Council.
The other eight recommendations, such as bringing forward the All-Ireland senior inter-county finals by two weeks, will be debated at Congress. In a further development, Central Council were informed Duffy has informed the London County Board the proposal by the Granuaile Hurling Club to rescind the affiliation of the Irish Guards cannot be permitted according to GAA rules.
Central Council will work with both the London executive ad Granuaile to resolve issues arising from the affiliation, which came into force last September. Granauile’s motion was expected to be heard last Monday before an intervention from Croke Park.