Inter-county footballers wholeheartedly reject the proposed “B” football championship, says GPA head of communications Seán Potts.
The GAA’s Central Council on Saturday chose to forward a motion recommending a second tier competition for Division 4 counties to next month’s Congress.
The proposal was chosen ahead of the GPA’s Champions League-style format, which was backed by 31 of 32 senior county panels.
Potts insists a “B” competition is destined to fail whether it’s on the floor of Congress in Carlow or if put into practice from next season.
“The players wanted the provincial championships to stay so we set out that parameter and the second thing was there wouldn’t be a ‘B’ championship. We went to the relevant counties and they didn’t want to play in a ‘B’ championship. That pertains now and will in the future if they try to trial a system with a ‘B’ championship.
“The players just don’t want it. They don’t want to be disconnected from the principal competitions. We’ve gone back to them time and time again about this and the answer has been the same every time.
“On the previous occasion (Tommy Murphy Cup), the status of the competition diminished in due course and the feeling was no matter what is done to make it more attractive in the short term that the long term will see that happen again. You could play it on high profile occasions but the initial enthusiasm will fade and it will be seen as a lesser competition.
“We don’t know what consultation was carried out between the counties and their county squads. We suspect not a great deal. We would reject the current proposal as it stands. It doesn’t fit any of the criteria that has been laid out by the players in the process we engaged in.”
Potts said players recognise some of the championship structures are “no longer fit for purpose” particularly the dearth of championship games and the gaps between matches.
Their blueprint, which comprised eight groups of four after the provincial competitions, had been an attempt to rebalance the training-to-game ratio.
“The frustrating part for us is that we have worked very hard on this. We didn’t just develop a proposal; it evolved through discussions. We had a working group and were constantly engaging with members about it. Our members represent a broad church.
“The one thing that came back repeatedly was more games. Everybody across the board has a problem with the training culture that exists in Gaelic games. Yet there was a feeling by sort of stretching out the competition the training regime will change. It won’t. It has evolved this way due to the nature of our competitions whereby you see some teams playing one week and not playing again for six weeks.
“With the best will in the world, even if you have a club weekend dedicated in that time period county teams will still train. You’ve got a ludicrous, disproportionate ratio between training and playing.”
It had been stated Central Council were disinclined to proposals like the GPA because they involved more matches therefore having more impact on clubs but Potts disputes that theory.
“That can be challenged head on. The notion the CCCC (Central Competitions Control Committee) imposing the parameter that no extra games is somehow going to protect club weekends I believe is spurious. Training will inhabit that space in any protracted tournament and that is just the way the culture has evolved. Any attempt to roll that back by rule won’t work because it’s against the nature of teams striving to be better.” Regardless of the outcome of the vote in Carlow, Potts said the GPA will continue to push for the type of football championship players want. “It also looks like the process has only begun rather than reaching any conclusion.”
The GPA have taken encouragement from revised plans to scrap the U21 championship. As part of their student report last year, the players body proposed the introduction of an U20 football championship, which has now been incorporated by the GAA and will be debated at Congress along with reducing minor level in both codes.
“The proposal is interesting because it does remove the serious issue for the association, which is overlapping competitions for players of those ages,” said Potts.
“The difficulty is not always the physical activity but the mental thing of having to answer to different coaches so we welcome it. The idea that players who are already on senior panels can’t play in it is beneficial because what we’re trying to do is stop players having to commit to playing for so many teams.”
Wexford football manager David Power, meanwhile, has launched a stinging broadside against Croke Park top-brass who he believes are out of touch with reality.
“The people that have come up with this B championship proposal clearly aren’t dealing with players and clearly don’t know the situation on the ground. I have to question if the people who are making these decisions played the game, have they even coached? It feels like to me that there are people up in Croke Park who want to justify their position by making these decisions and proposing these changes that are out of touch with reality.”
Power fears several Wexford footballers would defect to the hurling set-up were they denied access to the All-Ireland championship proper.
“If we lose the first round or even a quarter-final or semi-final in Leinster then we are going to be playing in this rehashed Tommy Murphy Cup competition. In a dual county we would definitely lose our better players to hurling. You couldn’t entice young men to train hard for six months and then play a mickey mouse competition. Lads will opt for hurling, and rightly so.”
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