Mike Quirke: What’s with the borderline hysteria?

The shifting of All-Ireland finals from their traditional and spiritual dates in September is one of the boldest and most radical moves taken by the association since the inception of the qualifiers, and one that will help the club game, writes Mike Quirke.

What’s with the borderline hysteria? The massive social media traffic lambasting an ‘out of touch and disconnected’ Congress from its grassroots… the shock, the surprise, the drama. I mean, what exactly were people expecting?

Did you think that Congress 2017 was going to be the leopard that suddenly changed its spots?

That it was going to start taking players’ opinions into consideration just because we now had a Club Players Association on the field?

Congress is what it always has been; it operates as a democracy, the major problem is, nobody seems to know how that democracy works.

For all the failings of Congress, and there are many, people also need to make up their minds and decide exactly what they want.

Last Saturday, Motion 4 — the so-called ‘Super 8’ motion — cruised home with a 76% majority, despite both player representative bodies, (one officially recognised, and one not) coming out and publicly stating they were against the proposal of the new format.

The overwhelming majority of speakers on the floor prior to the vote however, strongly endorsed the proposal and gave it their resounding backing.

Only Cork, and Dermot Earley of the GPA urged delegates to vote no. The GPA had, of course, canvassed their membership and found 70% of respondents were opposed to this amendment to the championship.

The general angst of those who were against the change, aside from the hurling angle, seemed to centre around the notion that the ‘Super 8’ would most benefit the traditional footballing super powers and only force them further away from the rest of the chasing pack.

Players from the weaker counties felt this would have them treading water even more feverishly than they already were.

It was clearly interpreted as a move more motivated by finance than any grandiose ambition to improve the game for all.

So, to be clear, the apparent thinking from the players was that they felt this round-robin at the quarter-final stage was only pandering to the elite counties … the rich would get richer and the rest would stay immersed in poverty, so to speak.

And while I appreciate and share people’s frustration with the dysfunction of Congress as a decision-making body, I find myself confused as to precisely what people want to see happen.

Some of the same bodies who wanted no part of the ‘Super 8’ in 2017, were on a similar bandwagon last year when they wanted nothing to do with the notion of a second-tier championship competition starting after provincial series catering for the needs of the weaker counties.

That motion for the introduction of a ‘B’ championship was withdrawn without even a vote in 2016, such was the overwhelming groundswell of distain for the idea.

Yet, everybody is loving the Allianz Football League at the moment for one simple reason; each county is getting regular competitive games against teams at their own level. Promotion from Division 3 or 4 is a realistic goal and an attainable achievement for some of the so-called minnows.

Yet the prospect of being in a competitive championship during the summer against teams of a similar level, where they actually have an opportunity to taste comparable success is somehow unappealing to them?

I just don’t get the logic.

We have junior, intermediate and senior grades at club levels… why on earth shouldn’t we have something similar at county level?

‘There’s nothing in the ‘Super 8’ for us, Croke Park are screwing us over and only looking after the top teams… but you can go away and shove your second-tier championship… we want to try and win Sam Maguire.’

You could conceivably offer that up as a dictionary definition of a paradox.

Again, at Congress 2016, a motion to move the All-Ireland final by two weeks to try and give the club game some breathing space was narrowly defeated.

That decision was seen as an indictment of the type of disregard the ‘top-brass’ have for the club player and was roundly and rightly lambasted from every angle.

At Congress 2017, the motion to move the All-Ireland final forward was carried and it hardly created a murmur.

In case you missed it, the shifting of the All-Ireland finals from their traditional and spiritual dates in September is one of the boldest and most radical moves taken by the association since the inception of the qualifiers, and one that will help the club game.

The same with the abolition of all inter-county replays, outside of provincial and All-Ireland finals.

Again, in my eyes that’s another positive step in the right direction for the club player who can now start to assume a little more certainty about their fixtures without the prospect of an inter-county draw hovering over their head, just waiting to scupper their big game.

Here’s my suggestion to every club and inter-county player in Ireland; firstly, turn off twitter and go away and decide for yourself exactly what you want.

Once you have found some conceptual clarity, then you must get a consensus, either through the GPA or CPA, whichever is your level.

After that information has been accurately compiled, at some point in the coming months, a mechanism must be set up for a delegation from the CPA and GPA to sit around a table with Paraic Duffy and central council for ongoing talks to thrash out the details of a motion to go before Congress which goes towards ticking boxes for all concerned.

Once that motion has been lodged, every one of those players needs to ask for a meeting with their club executive, including the club’s county board delegate.

At that club meeting, those players should indicate to their executive how they want their delegate to vote at county board level.

Once the players in all the clubs follow the same procedure, the county board will be mandated by their clubs to vote whichever way they have been instructed.

That county takes that vote to Congress to represent the will of their clubs and suddenly we have a democracy that actually works for the grassroots and can create meaningful change.

It may not be headline grabbing and glamorous, I know, and it sure isn’t as militant as calling for an all-out strike.

Congress should work for the players, but only when they start to take greater ownership and engage with the process.

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