Seán Kelly calls for open draw for All-Ireland football championships

FORMER GAA President Seán Kelly has repeated his call for an open draw for the All-Ireland senior football championships.
Seán Kelly calls for open draw for All-Ireland football championships
Former Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Seán Kelly at the GAA Special Congress at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Former Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Seán Kelly at the GAA Special Congress at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

FORMER GAA President Seán Kelly has repeated his call for an open draw for the All-Ireland senior football championships.

GAA fixtures planners will this week announce the formats and structures for the 2020 Championships which are due to commence on October 17th.

Kelly believes that this delayed start to the season, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, gives the GAA the perfect opportunity to trial a new approach to the football competition and not be forced to ‘appease a system that we have had in the past.’

The Kerry native wrote a column in the Irish Examiner on March 18 calling on the GAA to consider an open draw format and nothing in the past three months has changed his opinion.

“I’d prefer to see an open draw,” he repeated this afternoon.

“That format would be easier to organise and it would bring greater certainty in relation to games and planning.

“You could have it all run off in a few weeks and would mean the All-Ireland finals would be played earlier in December and allow another window for clubs then.

“The most important thing is to play games and to get the results. Time is of the essence this year. Because of that, we should not be trying to drag things out to appease a system that we have had in the past.

“We should look at this as a great challenge and a great opportunity to experiment. You could start a second-tier championship (in football) directly after the first round if you wanted to make sure everyone got another game.”

And he also revealed another tweak that could be introduced this autumn: “I’d also get rid of extra time, every game has to finish on the day. That would be hugely important given that players may now be expected to be playing week in week out. Instead of a penalty shoot out, I’d prefer to see the game being decided by the next goal. By doing that it would lessen the burden on penalty takers and on goalkeepers in big pressure games.”

Mr Kelly admits that if the desire is to retain the provincial systems, then all provinces will have to adopt a uniform format and complete the competitions in an agreed timeframe.

He also welcomed the decision by the GAA to commence the re-opening of pitches from Wednesday (for adult teams) and the return to full-contact training for all grades in the Republic from next Monday.

“It is welcome news. We as a country have good figures in relation to the virus and the spread of it. The risk has been reduced substantially. Yes, we are all conscious that there could be a second wave but we can’t stay in a lockdown forever. The GAA is all about activities at all grades. We should move forward with caution and with vigilance.”

However former GAA President Liam O'Neill expressed concern that the Association was  “taking a foot off the caution pedal".

"We're in a pandemic," he told RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday Sport. "The narrative from the media sometimes is that somehow we're in control of it. We're not. This is happening to us; it's happening to the GAA, it's happening to Irish society, to Ireland, to the world. We're not in control of this pandemic.

"This is a danger that's out there lurking. It's like looking out into the dark as a child, when you couldn't see what was out there. You were naturally conservative and careful. I think at the moment we don't know where this virus is. We have been magnificently led through this problem by our medics and our politicians. I'm just worried that we're taking a foot off the caution pedal at the moment."

He continued: “Whatever we do has to be guided by safety first, that's the prime concern. Maybe we're okay at the moment, but I know historically, in all pandemics there's been a second wave. I just hope we're ready for it and I hope we don't do anything now that will make that worse.

"We really have a huge responsibility. I said from day one... our responsibility, as an organisation and as a country, is to get as many people over the line before this pandemic peters out, and it will peter out at some stage. We have to make sure we don't lose people. If you get a virus into your family by being careless, you only lose a grandparent once.”

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