O’Neill rejects claims GAA performed U-turn in hurling leagues decision

GAA president Liam O’Neill has rejected suggestions the association performed a U-turn by sticking with the status quo for the 2014 Allianz Hurling Leagues.

The Super 12 proposal drawn up by Monaghan official Michael Burns appeared to have plenty of support ahead of last Saturday’s crucial Central Council vote on the format.

But in a surprise move delegates voted to effectively stick by the existing model for three more years, adding quarter-finals and altering slightly terms of promotion from Division 1B.

Wexford manager Liam Dunne described the weeks of discussions before the vote as a ‘‘load of baloney and fuss over nothing’’.

Like Carlow captain Edward Coady, whose county missed out on being included in a revamped top flight, Dunne claimed the GAA had missed an opportunity to promote the game.

But O’Neill rejected the criticism and insisted talk of an about-turn for declining either a new 12- or 14-team format was well off the mark.

“There was no U-turn,” insisted O’Neill. “Let’s get this straight because there has been very unfair comment this week. We entered Saturday with three propositions. Essentially, we only had two new ones because the one that was there, was there. There was sufficient discussion and sufficient will (to change) expressed at a meeting of the chairpersons and secretaries of the hurling counties that we had in August.

“They wanted a different proposition and we gave them that, which was what Michael Burns came up with. Carlow then came in with theirs (adding Carlow and Westmeath to the Super 12). So as we started on Saturday, we only had two new proposals. One was the 14-team one, and the other was Michael Burns’ proposal.

“So what we did was what we thought was the fairest thing to do — vote for the 14 or the 12 and that was lost by two votes. So the only thing then was, did we want the new or the old proposal for 12? That’s all it was. It was a very simple democratic exercise.

“We brought the Central Council meeting forward from December to November so it wouldn’t interfere with anyone.

“Nobody was discommoded in any way because the fixtures aren’t made for next year anyway. It’s a very simple process but a very democratic process. That’s what we seek to do.”

O’Neill said the GAA is keen to move to move to a position where the Allianz Leagues and Championships are more closely aligned in the coming years.

“At the end of the proposed run of the next couple of years of how the Liam MacCarthy is going to be run, at the end of that process will be a stage where we will have 13 in the MacCarthy Cup,” he continued.

“That will focus our minds then. We might at that stage get to a stage where the alignment between the leagues and the cup competitions in hurling will be closer.

“Ideally, if you could get to a stage where you knew your MacCarthy Cup number, be that 12 or 13 as we’ve decided, then you could say that’s Division 1. The Ring would become the next section, then the Rackard, and you would have an alignment between the two competitions.”

O’Neill was speaking at the GAA’s launch of its Rounders Strategic Plan. He said that in line with the GAA’s stance on integration and better catering for its various units, they aim to promote the game and increase its popularity.

“We are serious about integration, about inclusion and serious about promoting rounders. Historically, we left rounders to the Rounders Association. It’s now GAA Rounders and the fact we call it that is a statement in itself.”


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