GAA director general Páraic Duffy claims the divide between the organisation’s administration and players has been “driven” by the Club Players Association (CPA) and insisted the GAA won’t be run by what is written on Twitter.
Duffy was referring to several current and former inter-county footballers who took to the social media platform on Saturday to decry Congress’ historic decision to back the “Super 8” All-Ireland senior football championship proposal, put forward by Duffy.
With the GPA and Cork offering the only dissenting voices on the motion, 76% of delegates endorsed the introduction of two All- Ireland round-robin groups instead of quarter-finals, with the top two in each progressing to the semi-finals.
The change, which comes in next year on a three-season trial, is the most significant since the qualifiers were introduced in 2001.
It will mean an extra eight games and they will likely take place in July as it was also agreed that the All- Ireland finals be moved from September to August. Duffy suggested the finals could take place on the last two Sundays of the month, which next year would mean August 20 and 27.
The wedge, he suggested, has been created by the CPA.
“It’s being driven. I met with the CPA four times and the first two meetings were extremely positive meetings.
“We didn’t change the narrative — I have never said one negative thing about the CPA. The strongest thing I said was I was disappointed they rejected the proposals out of hand.
“I think the people writing those things need to look at themselves. I met them four times and I’m happy to meet them again — the GAA wants to engage. Michael Higgins is a national executive member of the CPA; Michael Higgins is a member, appointed by Aogán (Farrell) and I two years ago, of the central fixtures analysis committee. What are we supposed to do? It’s not being driven by us. You saw at Congress — the GAA aren’t looking for a row here.”
Informed of Wicklow manager Johnny Magee’s call for a strike in the wake of the “Super 8” proposal being passed, Duffy shrugged: “I could go onto Twitter this evening and get any number of those (remarks). We’re not going to run the GAA by Twitter. If you keep asking me those kind of questions, I’m going to look as if I’m annoyed, which I probably am. If that’s what I’m going to get down to answering — Johnny Magee’s call — that’s his right. It’s a free country so he’s entitled to do that. As are all these other people.”
GPA chief executive Dermot Earley indicated the official players body will respond strongly after their plea to delegates to oppose the motion was ignored.
Describing it as “a slap in the face” and agreeing the “Super 8” is an elitist format, he said:
“I think we’ll stand up fairly well for ourselves. We’ll wait for the mandate of the players. It is very disappointing; it is disappointing the players’ opinions were ignored and I think you’ll see the reaction over the next week. Even already we’ve seen the reaction from players coming out saying how disappointed they are that their voice, in the competition that affects them the most, is ignored.
“Yes, it is a slap in the face. We will take the decision of our players as to our next step forward. Even though this decision is in for three years, we can go away and work on something that is better, that has the backing of the players, that has the backing of all the stakeholders.”
With the All-Ireland finals being brought forward, the conditions for a calendar year are in place but Duffy said that was a matter of all in good time. “We’re going to take this process first.
The next task we have to do, and I’m looking forward to this, is we’ve now made a decision the inter-county starts on January 1 to August 31.
“We’re going to work with the National CCC (competitions control committee), the Central Fixtures Analysis Committee, the provincial councils and some great people in counties.”
He continued: “We’re going to produce the best possible fixtures template we can between now and September before next year’s championship draws take place.”
Between the last eight teams, all 12 round-robin games are almost certain to be televised but Duffy said the number of extra games shown live will be “limited”.
While Farrell last year said there were enough inter-county games, Duffy had previously suggested the GAA were showing enough if not too many championship matches on TV.
Galway, on Saturday, chose to hold off on their motion calling to join Leinster at minor and U21 championship level having been given reassurances by Croke Park they would strive to help them. A Special Congress, though, has been ruled out by Duffy with any changes to the championship, from senior to minor, not expected to come into force until 2019.
Senior hurling games will be outnumbered almost four to one by football in July and August but Duffy insisted it won’t be dwarfed. “The Uachtarán and I have discussed this. We are very strong on this. We are very open to looking at the hurling structure, very open. There are actually some good suggestions out there, it’s not for me to put them out here today but if the hurling community – and this is important to us – if they wish to look at their championship in terms of the number of games they have and then we’ll look at that. But I wouldn’t force that.
“We looked at football because the demand was there. The Uachtarán stated this when he came into office. There was a loud cry we do something with the football championship. If the hurling counties would like us to look at hurling then we will.
“But no matter what happens, even if there is no change in hurling in the next couple of years and there will have to be something to accommodate Galway and Antrim, we will design a fixtures programme that reflects the needs of both sports, club and inter-county. We will make sure hurling is not dwarfed.”
GAA Podcast: The Super 8 - 'Paraic Duffy said there’s nothing to fear. I think there’s plenty to fear'
All our sport podcasts can now be found on Soundcloud and iTunes.
SUBSCRIBE ON iTUNES for regular GAA, soccer, rugby shows and more.
Or view our show selection on SOUNDCLOUD
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved