Babs Keating has described the decision to move the All-Ireland finals to August as “disastrous” and claims the September blackout will damage the promotion of Gaelic games.
Prior to Congress last year, when a motion to move each of the senior finals back by two weeks fell less than 6% short of being passed, Keating said the GAA was focusing on the wrong end of the year and called for no inter-county football or hurling to be played in January and February.
He’s just as adamant that removing the finals from their traditional September slots will be detrimental to the GAA in the long run.
“You’re going to have a complete blackout in the promotion of the game and interest in the game. The winter is going to be too long. I think it was a disastrous decision but when you’re my age they can do what they like with it because there are so many things wrong,” said Keating.
“I think it’s madness because our competitors, even though I’m slow to describe anybody that’s involved in sport as a competitor in that regard, are now being given the high-profile month for our games.
"Basically, September is a time when the other sports regroup and we in the GAA have had the month to ourselves. But now we have given that over to them and without any good reason, in my opinion.”
Keating doesn’t buy the idea that clubs need the month of September.
He accepts some dual counties like his native Tipperary have had difficulties scheduling club fixtures but questions what merit there is in the inter-county scene surrendering the month when counties have previously shown they can complete their championship schedules in time.
“All you need to do is look at Cork. Whether Cork have been in All-Ireland football or hurling finals, as the biggest county in Ireland they were still able to manage to have their county finals set in stone in October.
“Tipperary, apart from here and there, have been able to finish their championships in good time. Forty or fifty years ago, we didn’t have the floodlit fields they have now, which can be used to schedule more games.
“I never heard anybody in Cork or Tipperary giving out at club level about games. Maybe the footballers in Tipp have had reason to in recent years but with the amount of dual players there was no alternative.
"The responsibility for this will lay with those in charge from the top down and not having enough control of their respective counties.”
Keating also highlighted the logistical difficulties that will be presented by moving the finals into the summer.
“I know people in the hotel trade in Dublin and they have pointed out that the games will be played at the end of the peak time for tourism in the capital and the demand on accommodation will be high as it is. There could be a rude awakening for the GAA there.”
From Ger Loughnane to Tomás Mulcahy to Richie Power, hurling personalities have expressed concern that football’s new Super 8 addition to the All-Ireland championship will overshadow hurling.
It could be the case that there are 19 SFC games in July and August compared to just five in hurling: The All-Ireland quarter-finals, semis, and finals.
Keating doesn’t share their fears even though he disagrees with the football restructure.
“At the end of the day, there are only a few counties in football at the moment who are doing well and I don’t see that changing.
"There’s no team in Leinster that is going to compete with Dublin and win titles over the next 10 years. Anyone who expects a county with a population of 50,000 to compete with one with 1.2m suffers from a form of madness.
“I’m completely opposed to [Super 8] but I don’t see the football games taking from hurling. Whether we like it or not, Kerry will stay football, Mayo are going to continue dominating in Connacht, for a couple more years anyway, and there will be one or two of the Ulster counties with Dublin and that’s it.
"They’re not going to infringe on hurling unless there’s a clash between fixtures.”
On another note, the two-time All-Ireland-winning manager believes the age change to the minor grade next year will impact on the attractiveness of the competition. “They’re going to take the interest out of minor by taking away the U18 age limit. There won’t be the same following for it.”
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