Wicklow football manager Johnny Magee revealed he would go on strike over the implementation of the new ‘Super 8’ Championship structure if he was still a player.
The former Dublin defender believes players have been “disrespected once too often” by authorities and suggested the GAA is now on the brink of rebellion.
Over three quarters of Congress delegates voted to replace the All-Ireland quarter-finals with a new group stage, guaranteeing more epic encounters between the top teams at the high point of the summer.
But Magee said there’s nothing in it for weaker counties like Wicklow who consistently play just two Championship games per year and will be long gone when the serious action begins.
The Gaelic Players Association called on Congress delegates not to support the motion ahead of last Saturday’s crucial vote, outlining how 70% of county players were against it.
But Magee said the GPA were essentially ignored, just like they were last year when their proposal for Championship reform didn’t make it to the floor of Congress.
“How long can you kick a dog before it bites back?” asked Magee. “What do they really expect up in Croke Park? The word strike might sound very strong but at the end of the day the players have voiced their opinion and it’s not been listened to. And this is not once, it’s happened two years in a row that the GPA has been ignored.
“I feel the players have been disrespected once too often. If I was still a player, my opinion would be that I will go on strike because that’s twice now they haven’t listened to us.”
The newly-formed Club Players Association also came out against the ‘Super 8’ proposals before the vote and were left similarly dismayed while a proposal to formally recognise the group had to be pulled due to a lack of support.
Magee said that was another example of a slap in the face for players and claimed both club and county players couldn’t be blamed for withdrawing their services now en masse.
“There are rumours of that going around, that they may take that sort of action,” he said. “Put it this way, I can’t see it ending in a nice way. And it’s not going to be the fault of players. They feel they’ve voiced their opinion twice now and been shot down. So where does it end?”
Magee favours an alternative inter-county championship structure where first-round provincial losers go into a group stage, producing a number of teams that would eventually rejoin the championship proper.
He said as things stand for his Wicklow team, they play 10 games between the Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup and the Allianz League which ends in early April but often only get two more games for the rest of the year.
“How many players will continue to commit when there’s nothing being offered back to them?” he asked. “I’m being genuine and honest here, I’m not trying to stir the pot. If we’re all here to award more games to players then how is the ‘Super 8’ set-up going to do that for us and counties like ourselves?
“The GAA are at a huge crossroads with the players. I can sense the anger among them and it didn’t have to be this way. That’s the part I just don’t understand. Who are the most important people here? The players obviously. But they feel they’re not being listened to.
“From my perspective, whatever the players want to do I’ll back them 110% because they deserve to be playing football at the right time of the year. We played at the weekend in gale force winds, as bad as I was ever involved in as a player. It was the tail end of a storm and it was blowing down the middle of the pitch, just horrendous conditions.
“This is the time of year we’re playing the majority of our football in and that’s not fair. So players are looking at more big games for the top teams and they’re saying ‘there’s nothing tangible in that for me. Where’s the incentive?’
“That’s where we’re at, I feel there’s a big disconnect there and a lot of people are referencing that word right now.”
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