A calendar season, fewer replays and a tighter inter-county schedule including an August All-Ireland hurling final are expected to be among the options listed by GAA director general Páraic Duffy in his soon-to-be-released discussion paper on club fixtures.
The document is expected to be circulated to counties later this month after which it is hoped consensus will be formed at Central Council and a motion or motions will go forward to Congress in Carlow next February.
Drawing on reports from various GAA committees over the last seven years, Duffy will put forward a number of alternatives to the status quo.
No new proposals are anticipated in the paper, although there is definitive recognition that club players have to be given a better share of the GAA season.
Duffy signalled his plans to create a debate in his annual report earlier this year when he wrote: “It is my intention that my office, in conjunction with our games administration and player welfare section, will produce an extensive paper later this year – based on the wide range of proposals already made – that will draw on all of these proposals and allow the Association to decide how it will address these player welfare issues and the needs of the club player.”
Duffy and GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail have not ruled out the possibility of a calendar season despite strong opposition from Munster and dual counties.
All six Munster counties have questioned the workability of stricter deadlines for club competitions to be finished in time for provincial campaigns.
However, there would appear to be widespread support for the idea of tightening the All-Ireland senior inter-county championships with each of the finals being brought forward by a week or two. Kilkenny manager Brian Cody recently threw his weight behind the idea of an August hurling decider.
As player welfare officer prior to succeeding Liam Mulvihill as director general, Duffy called for the end of replays in championship, replacing them with the facility of extra-time, to free up space for club fixtures and provide more predictability to the calendar. In 2011, a motion by Kildare and Wexford calling for the reintroduction of replays in all provincial games and All-Ireland quarter-finals was narrowly passed.
Speaking last month, Duffy said it was high time the GAA acted for the sake of clubs.
“It’s not fair to club players, and that has to be a primary concern, how we can improve that. Having said that, we have to accept that this is difficult because the inter-county programme is hugely important in the GAA. It’s hugely important in promotional terms.
“Take the last eight weeks, with the provincial finals, All-Ireland quarter-finals, semi-finals, controversial games, big attendances – that’s all hugely important in terms of promoting the game. I will be putting forward some suggestions and it’s a matter then for the association to say ‘we’re going to act on this’ or ‘we’re just going to keep talking about it’.
“We have to do something about it now, this year, in the next six months between now and Congress.”
Central Council will also vote on a new football championship proposal having already received the GPA’s recommendation.
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