Páraic Duffy: Club players will feel we’ve let them down

GAA director general Páraic Duffy accepts the debate about the All-Ireland senior football championship structure is far from over despite two motions being defeated and another withdrawn at Congress on Friday.

In his annual report, Duffy expressed hope Congress would put an end to the constant talking about structures. Central Council chose on Saturday to withdraw their “B” championship proposal while Carlow and Roscommon’s motions were defeated.

Carlow had called for a seeded qualifier system based on the league placings and it received just over 40% of delegates’ votes.

“Given the fact the Carlow motion got strong support, you can’t ignore that,” acknowledged Duffy.

“We’ll reflect on it. It hasn’t ended the discussion. We might do it a different way the next time around but there are things to reflect on and you couldn’t ignore that.”

The GAA have no plans to meet the GPA about finding common ground on a new championship proposal to put to Congress next year.

Duffy revealed he and GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail chose to propose withdrawing the “B” championship motion early last week after the eight Division 4 counties expressed their opposition to it.

Asked why the octet weren’t consulted before the motion was endorsed by Central Council, Duffy explained: “At Central Council, there were 18 different proposals and they were narrowed down to three. After going through the process, Central Council had to come up with a motion and rightly or wrongly Central Council decided that was the best of the motions before it. There was no strong opposition from Central Council to it.”

Central Council’s u-turn was an embarrassment but there were some progressive steps taken from Congress over the weekend in the form of minor grade at county level dropping to U17 and the U21 All-Ireland football championship being replaced by an U20 development championship involving players who aren’t part of their counties’ senior panels.

However, Duffy was disappointed his proposals to bring forward the All-Ireland finals by two weeks and applying extra-time to all championship games with the exception of All-Ireland and provincial finals didn’t pass. The status quo of extra-time applying only to qualifiers will remain.

“I take a lot of heart that Congress actually supported them all. That’s positive in terms of the association, some of these can come back again because they were very close to getting enough support.

“To be fair about it, the three big changes of the weekend – the minor, the U20 and the mark all just made it over that barrier. So you win some, you lose some.”

Duffy admitted while there had been good work done to tackle burnout among under-age players, Congress didn’t do enough to assist club players despite having the opportunity to do so.

“I think the club players will feel we’ve let them down a little bit. We had the proposals, we felt they were good proposals, but they didn’t get through.

“I think we did really well on addressing the burnout issue but I think the club players would be entitled to say ‘what’s in it for us?’”

Ó Fearghail concurred: “That the motions were rejected won’t help the club player.

“But I wouldn’t say that anything is ever finished. I think we are going to continue with that process but I would certainly have some disappointment with some of the motions.”

Duffy insisted the idea of a calendar year is not dead even though it was firmly believed the rescheduling of the All-Ireland finals had been integral to that plan.

“It doesn’t rule it out. We’ll look at that now in light of this year’s decision but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ruled out. The arguments put forward were that it made no difference whether you brought them two weeks forwards, so if it makes no difference then we’ll definitely look at the calendar year still. It’s still alive.”

Ó Fearghail believes counties will make their minor grades U17 to fall in line with the new grade at county level.

Meanwhile, the GAA were given a strong mandate on Saturday to continue negotiations with pay-per-view TV companies regarding exclusive rights for championship games.

Following a strong offering from former GAA president Nickey Brennan, just 15.3% of delegates voted in favour of Dublin’s motion, which called for all televised championship games to be made free-to-air.


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