Former Wexford manager Liam Griffin believes the GAA’s will to help club players has been sabotaged by the structure of the association.
The 1996 All-Ireland winning boss, who is the Club Players Association’s hurling fixtures co-ordinator, considers the democratic model of the GAA to be “faulty”.
It’s regularly stated by Croke Park that clubs have the ability to make changes at Congress every year, playing rules every five years, but Griffin questions the veracity of that point.
“You’ve got to go to your club and then the club goes to the county. (Former Galway hurler) Eanna Ryan lost an eye playing hurling. I immediately went to my own club, got a motion passed that everyone should wear a helmet and a faceguard.
“I never heard another word about it. I understood it was shot down because someone at Congress said: ‘Oh, that will be an insurance issue if they don’t wear it so that can’t go’.
“I brought several others... that two people under the age of 30 had to be on every club delegation going to a county convention. It was passed unanimously in Wexford but it didn’t see the light of day because it was ageist. Where’s the club player’s voice? And I tried that long before I was ever a county manager.”
Griffin knows the GAA will maintain they are an extremely democratic organisation. However, he counters: “It’s democracy that needs to be relooked at in 2017. The pathway to the top is broken in so many places that those individual clubs writing to us don’t get considered.”
Quoting GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s 2015 white paper on fixtures and player burn-out, Griffin described him as “a good man” but said not enough was being done to address the problems he raised in that document.
CPA executive committee member Michael Higgins, who is also on the GAA’s fixtures planning committee, said: “I think there is a genuine fear within county boards that if they take away from county games they lose revenue that they used to plough back into the clubs.
“Good people could argue by attacking any inter-county structure you’re effectively weakening it. We’re trying to say there’s no need to have that fear. At the moment, county boards are in a precarious position because they don’t know when to plan stuff. But what our template shows is that no county has an excuse now — everyone can plan their club fixtures with certainty. All 32 are on the same level playing field and can get on with it without fear of losing revenue. We actually think inter-county can flourish even more if the suggestions like the ones put forward are implemented.”
In arguing the case for the calendar year season, Griffin claimed the middling form of Clare’s 2013 hurler and young hurler of the year Tony Kelly for his county this year was based on his 2016 season running into his 2017 campaign because of Ballyea’s progression to the 2016/17 All-Ireland senior club final. He highlighted the point that Clare and Dublin, whose Cuala club won the competition, found themselves in a relegation final in April.
Former Armagh defender Aaron Kernan made a similar argument, contrasting Armagh’s fortunes in the seasons where his Crossmaglen club were successful. In 2007, the county were in a relegation battle on the last day of the league, a matter of weeks after Rangers won the Andy Merrigan Cup. The same happened four years later when Cross were again victorious, while Armagh were demoted a year later shortly following the club retaining their All-Ireland title.
In contrast, but backing up the same point, Armagh won Division 1, 2 and 3 titles in 2005 and ’10 respectively when Crossmaglen failed to make the All-Ireland final.
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