The Gaelic Players Association has revealed that its players will vote to reject Paraic Duffy’s ‘Super 8’ proposal at Congress, after a poll of members found 70% opposed the proposals, which would see the All-Ireland football quarter-finals replaced by a round robin format from next year.
GPA president Seamus Hickey confirmed to Newstalk’s Off the Ball the player body’s opposition, though the GPA will back proposals to end championship replays and shorten the inter- county season.
Also on Off The Ball, Liam Griffin, the fixtures coordinator of the Club Players Association, reiterated that group’s opposition to the Super 8.
“I respect Paraic Duffy and what he’s trying to do, but he’s wrong, he’s absolutely wrong,” Griffin said. “It’s quite clear that the Super 8 is about rescuing a failing championship model, focused on big teams, deepening the problems of the rest.”
However, former GAA president Sean Kelly will use his annual Congress vote to support the championship reform proposal, though, the Kerryman said that in an ideal world the Central Council-sponsored motion would include some provision for a second-tier championship.
He favours the inclusion of a 16-strong secondary championship for Division 3 and Division 4 teams to run alongside the proposed new ‘Super 8’ group stage.
That would be an expansion of the Tommy Murphy Cup, which existed for weaker counties in the 2000s and which was Kelly’s brainchild.
However, the Fine Gael MEP said that, for the present, the existing proposal is worthy of a ‘yes’ vote at Saturday’s annual Congress.
“I have no problem with the proposal that’s going to the floor and I will be using my vote to support it, yes, but I do think that we should have two tiers in the championship,” said Kelly. “I’d run the championship the same way they’re proposing, but I’d also have a second-tier competition — post the provincial championships — that would really give an incentive to the weaker counties.
“The majority of those counties are never going to win an All-Ireland. In fact, they’re falling further behind and that’s only going to continue. Unless we move to two tiers, then, to a large extent, we’re only catering for the elite and we’re helping to widen the gap.
“That’s something the counties who have no chance of winning the All-Ireland need to seriously address.”
Kelly is adamant that, as things stand, the gap between weak and strong in the football championship isn’t closing but getting wider.
“For the first time in my life I walked out on two games last year, because they were so one-sided,” said Kelly.
“I’m sick to death now of seeing teams being hammered down into the ground, whether that’s by Kerry, Dublin, Mayo, or whoever. A lot of these games are over after 10 minutes. What’s the point? I can’t understand why teams keep coming back for more.
“What actually happens is they’ll lose their best players and that’s already happening. It’s a bigger problem than trying to get games for the top-tier counties, even though I don’t necessarily have a problem with that,” said Kelly.
Weaker counties have consistently railed against the idea of a ‘B’ championship, though Kelly insisted that, for a start, he wouldn’t call it that.
Also, he said that while the Tommy Murphy Cup only lasted for five seasons — between 2004 and 2008 — a properly promoted and marketed second-tier competition could thrive.
“The counties are afraid of embracing the idea, because they haven’t been told what would replace what they have at the moment,” he said. “It’s up to us to promote it and to convince them they’ll get the same rewards and the same promotion and then deliver on that.”
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