A number of provincial grounds will require refurbishment work in order to host major fixtures in the latter stages of the All-Ireland football championship if GAA Director General Pauric Duffy’s proposals at tweaking the competition are accepted.
So believes Dublin chief executive John Costello who has given his overall backing to the plan put forward by the Ard Stiurthoir and one which would see the current quarter-final stage replaced by two ‘super groups’ of four teams playing over three weekends.
“There are lots of provincial venues that tick most boxes when it comes to overall standard of facilities and ground capacity,” wrote Costello. “There are several more that patently do not. Even more crucial is the issue of seating capacity - you need a stand (or stands) that can accommodate families and all of the season-ticket holders from the competing counties.”
Costello pointed out that the proposals on the table would do nothing to strengthen the weaker counties or alleviate growing disenchantment with the provincial championships but that they could lay the ground for greater championship reform in years to come.
“Unlikely,” he said of any knock-on effect from the current proposals for the provincials. “That battle remains to be won and that’s why this could be an important opening step on the way to a more imaginative championship, one that breaks from some of our other historical traditions.”
Costello’s report rarely fails to make headlines and this latest was as noteworthy and all-encompassing in scope as its predecessors, with the Dublin official touching on everything from the GAA’s TV deal with Sky to Congress reform and funding levels.
Among the first topics to gain public traction yesterday was the suggestion that the association needs to reconsider use of the sinbin instead of the black card and the belief that Jim Gavin’s all-conquering footballers were hard done by in receiving “just” six All Stars at year’s end.
The claim from former Dublin hurler Michael Carton that the county board has not been as zealous in the search for success in the small ball code as Gaelic football was also addressed and dismissed and then there was the reference to Diarmuid Connolly.
The attention afforded to the Dublin forward by opponents has garnered huge attention this past number of years and it was Costello’s assertion that officials need to do more to protect players like Connolly who he claims are “targeted” in such a manner.
“In one of our championship games this summer one of our players – (no prizes for guessing who!) - Diarmuid Connolly, was struck about six times before the ball was even thrown in to commence the game. Okay, they were not Mike Tyson haymakers he was hit with but, never-the-less, each blow was an infraction of the rules and worse still happened right under the gaze of one of the referee’s linesmen.
“At most breaks in play, this action continued with the perpetrator turning his back to the play and repeatedly striking Diarmuid, with one intention only, i.e. provoking a reaction that may get him in card trouble. The linesman’s attention was brought to it but again no action taken.”
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