All-Ireland football format remains unchanged

The All-Ireland senior football championship will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future after Congress last night rejected two restructure motions and the “B” championship proposal was withdrawn.

Prior to Congress, Central Council had chosen to remove from the clár their plan for a second tier competition involving Division 4 counties. The decision was taken so as to avoid what was likely to be an overwhelming defeat.

In explaining its withdrawal, GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail revealed to delegates all of the eight Division 4 counties had articulated no desire to play in a “B” competition. In what could be considered an embarrassment for Central Council, they decided there was no point persisting in commending the motion for consideration.

In the first session of the GAA’s annual meeting in Tullow’s Mount Wolseley Hotel last night, both Carlow and Roscommon’s proposals were soundly defeated. Host county Carlow had called for a seeded system to come into operation for the qualifiers whereby weaker counties will face off in the first round before they play a higher graded team in round two but it received just 40.6% support.

Roscommon wanted the All-Ireland championship split into two groups of eight with the top eight comprising the eight provincial finalists and the eight best placed teams in the National League. However, their blueprint got less than 17% of backing.

The All-Ireland “B” championship, which would have involved the eight Division 4 teams as per the end of the 2016 Allianz League, was destined to fail. On the eve of Congress, the GPA, who stated players from weaker counties would boycott it were it to be introduced, called on delegates to oppose the recommendation.

Instead of going into the qualifiers upon the end of the provincial campaigns, the Division 4 sides would have entered their own competition with the winners earning an automatic place in the backdoor the following season. The only way a Division 4 county could have avoided the “B” championship would have been to qualify for their respective provincial final.

Meanwhile, Meath delegate Eamonn Barry last night questioned the level of GAA funding distributed to the county for coaching purposes in comparison to Dublin.

In a response to GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s annual report, former Meath manager Barry, the county’s current coaching officer, highlighted the disparity between the funding distributed to Meath and Dublin - é45,600 in contrast to the capital’s é1.46 million.

“It’s by no means an anti-Dublin bias or anything like that,” said Barry, “but we have three full-time coaches and three part-time coaches employed in Meath and we’re expected to compete with the likes of Dublin who have over 60 full-time coaches.

“Meath are just one of many counties in a similar position with staffing levels way, way behind Dublin and yet we’re expected to compete on a level field. It can no longer go on like that – it’s an unlevel playing field and we can no longer cope with that.

“For a county like Meath of our size, we need at least 12 full-time coaches. But in Leinster Meath, Kildare and Wexford are all in the same boat. Something has to be done as regards full-time coaching staff.”

In reply to Barry, Duffy mentioned a forthcoming meeting he and GAA director of games development Pat Daly are scheduled to have with Meath about coaching in the county. He also maintained Dublin are too easy a target for criticism regarding funding.


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