The GPA’s blueprint for the All-Ireland senior football championship “would not have passed” at next month’s Congress, according to GAA director general Páraic Duffy.
At the release of his annual report yesterday, Duffy defended the GAA’s role in the ditching of the official players body’s restructuring proposal and insisted they received “a fair hearing”.
He explained the GPA document was one of 18 proposals circulated among counties. At November’s Central Council meeting, where Tipperary footballer Michael Quinlivan represented the GPA, the counties’ representatives opted for a model that retained the provincial championships, would not impact any further on club fixtures and incorporated a second tier competition.
The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) were then commissioned by GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail to shortlist those proposals which met that criteria.
While the GPA’s system foresaw the retention of the provinces, it did not envisage a “B” championship and the CCCC determined their Champions League format (eight groups of four) for the All-Ireland series would have adversely affected club action and was therefore rejected.
“I don’t want to mislead people here,” said Duffy, “the GPA motion would not have passed (at) Congress. It didn’t pass at Central Council. It wouldn’t have passed; there’s no point pretending otherwise.
“Because the number of championship games (in their proposal) goes from 61 to 116. That eight Division 1 teams play Division 4 teams. Because the provincial championship was being downgraded – and Central Council would not buy that. It could have gone to Congress but in my humble opinion it wouldn’t have a chance.”
Duffy accepted many players from weaker counties “don’t like the idea of a ‘B’ championship’ and “the big outcome to solve all our problems around the championship isn’t out there”.
However, he defended the idea of a second-tier competition for Division 4 teams that will be voted on at Congress on February 27.
“If people took a calm look at this and said, ‘I’m a player in Division 4, this gives me an opportunity to play in a ‘B’ championship. The final will be played in Croke Park before a big game, probably I’d imagine an All-Ireland semi-final. It will, almost certainly, be televised live and the winners of the competition earn their way into the qualifiers the following year.’ I think there’s a lot to be recommended in that.
“Now I accept the GPA are saying it would appear a lot of players don’t like that but they’ve got to ask themselves – is that better than where they are at the moment? That’s a decision for the counties to make, and if Congress decides ‘No, it’s not better; we want to stick with what we have; we want the same chance as everybody in the qualifier’, that’s absolutely fine.
“The Uachtarán and I would have no problem with that.”
In his eighth annual report, Duffy slammed Dublin and Armagh senior football managements and county boards for what he perceived as “a failure of leadership” regarding their lack of assistance in the CCCC’s investigation into the violence that marred their challenge game in Glasnevin last July.
A fine was handed down to the counties after neither chose to co-operate despite Dublin’s Davey Byrne having been hospitalised as a result of an incident prior to throw-in.
Duffy wrote: “It will be probably be considered naive on my part to criticise the position taken the counties, but the misguided loyalty that protects players who engage in violent behaviour on the pitch can only be seen, by those concerned with the good of the game, as a failure of leadership. Group solidarity is one thing; a code of silence that condones violence is quite another. And this is not just an issue for the counties involved in this incident. While a county may be pleased at avoiding the consequences of ill-disciplined behaviour, the reputation of the GAA suffers on such occasions.”
Duffy also took aim at Dublin in the form of secretary John Costello who last month accused the GAA of being Scrooge-like in the money they dished out to Dublin for last year’s All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo.
Duffy fired back: “Dublin received the standard grant of €80,000, which goes to All-Ireland finalists. Having applied for additional funding due to their involvement in the All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo, Dublin were awarded a further €15,000. Considering Dublin enjoys a much higher level of Central Council funding than any other county, that it enjoys vastly greater commercial revenues than other counties, that it incurs lower costs in terms of players’ travelling expenses to games and training than all other counties and that is has a far greater fundraising capacity than most, the charge of Scrooge-like behaviour against Central Council was disappointing and misplaced.”
However, there were words of support for Diarmuid Connolly in Duffy’s report. Connolly earned an 11th hour reprieve to line out in the aforementioned replay after the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA) ruled in favour of his case against a red card in the drawn game.
At the press briefing, Duffy added: “The point I’m making is the furore wasn’t justified. I was surprised at the decision and I think Diarmuid Connolly maybe gets a tough press sometimes. I would have felt a little bit of sympathy for the player because I thought it affected his performance the following day.”
Duffy was more disappointed by those who suggested Connolly’s case proved the GAA’s disciplinary structures were “not fit for purpose.” “Much of the commentary came from individuals who, as is often the case, clearly didn’t understand how these structures operate, but one would have expected more from some of our own members who should have been capable of distinguishing fact from fiction. For my part, I do not believe that there is any fundamental weakness in our disciplinary structures.”
In reference to the DRA’s decision, he added pointedly: “And, sometimes, too, decision-makers, as fallible human beings, will just get it wrong. The lesson is simple: a wrong decision in no way indicates an inadequate structure.”
“Many would say that verbal intimidation has always existed. What is different now, though, is the allegation that some teams are engaging in nasty, personal abuse on a systematic basis. This is a breach of rules that is difficult to deal with as, very often, offensive comments are made out of the hearing of match officials; in such cases, it becomes a matter of one player’s word against another’s. Such behaviour has no place in sport and reflects poorly on those who indulge in it.”
FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP IMBALANCE
“A significant number of counties do not have the financial resources, either from commercial income and/or through their fundraising capacity, to be serious contenders to win an All-Ireland title. This is becoming a permanent structural imbalance in competitiveness which, when combined with the unequal population distribution over counties, reduces potential All-Ireland winners to a relatively few counties. This has to be a matter of concern, particularly if we want the championship to continue to draw the strong attendances that we celebrate.”
PAY-PER VIEW TV
“There will be no reduction in the number of live senior championship games shown free-to-air. However, any restriction that prohibits the GAA from engaging with all interested parties, including subscription TV providers, would seriously reduce our negotiating power and thus our ability to achieve the true worth of our assets, and would inevitably lead to a greatly reduced media-rights income.”
GALWAY/MAYO MANAGER HEAVES
“It has yet to be proven that such internal turmoil leaves teams in a stronger position to realise their goals.”
“Maybe now is the time to accept the inevitable: Our crowded playing calendar and a lack of interest among players and the public tell us that the competitions have no viable future.”
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