In an exclusive questions and answers interview the Chairman of the Central Competitions Control Committee, Seamus Woods, discusses his group’s workings with our GAA correspondent John Fogarty
Q: 1. From a CCCC point of view, what is your biggest hope going into the All-Ireland championships?
A: “A campaign in both codes which is memorable for all the right reasons, ie — they are sportingly contested, riveting for spectators, and inspire our young people thereby securing their allegiance to Gaelic Games.”
Q: 2. Is there any way in which the championship structure could be further streamlined?
A: “Your use of the word ‘streamlined’ implies a more coherent structure and timeframe; in terms of structure, the provincial system is solidly entrenched, and I am not persuaded by the advocates of a ‘Champions League’ style format. The championship timeframe is yet another matter. Does it really take 19 weekends from the third weekend in May to the penultimate Sunday in September to conduct two parallel championships, each with 34 competing teams and a maximum of 1000 players? Does this take sufficient account of our 2,500 clubs which cater for about 100,000 adult players?”
Q: 3. How disappointed were you by Congress’ decision to back the re-introduction of replays for all provincial games and All-Ireland quarter-finals?
A: “The re-introduction of replays increases the challenge for individual counties to ensure that inter-county activity does not absorb a disproportionate share of the summer months, and that a meaningful level of club activity can continue. On the organisational front, the venues and admission charges for replays need to take account of the interests of supporters. The recent Allianz Division Two hurling final between Limerick and Clare is a case in point; the competing counties agreed to toss for home venue, and the game was played in Ennis before an attendance of 8,000. The orthodox alternative would have been to bring both teams to Dublin, necessitating an overnight stay for both counties, and heaping an enormous financial burden on those who could attend. The local solution meant that many more could afford the time and/or finance to attend.”
Q: 4. What is the most difficult aspect of work that faces the CCCC?
A: “I prefer to talk about ‘challenges’ rather the ‘difficulties’. The production of a Master Fixture Schedule for each season requires considerable ingenuity because the interests of four provinces have to be accommodated. In addition, situations regularly arise which necessitate a degree of imagination, as in the case of the Division Two hurling final just mentioned, or the recent All-Ireland U21 football final.
On the Disciplinary front, it is disappointing to hear officers in individual counties criticising procedures or decisions at National level when these very same people are operating the exact same system and procedures within their own counties. There is nothing unique about the National CCC; the rules and procedures under which it conducts its business are exactly the same as those which govern every other CCC in every county in Ireland and overseas, and remember that every single county has at least two CCC’s of its own!”
Q: 5. It has been suggested the CCCC has contributed to standing down referees who have not reconsidered CCCC recommendations to review video evidence. Is that inaccurate?
A: “Refereeing appointments are made by the CRAC i.e. the Central Referees Appointments Committee; such appointments are made on the basis of 3 fundamental criteria viz. Fitness as indicated in formal Fitness Tests, Knowledge of the Rules as confirmed by regular examinations, and performance as measured in Match Assessments.”
Q: 6. Do you believe John Bannon’s successful amended motion at Congress will put more pressure on referees to sufficiently punish players who commit offences?
A: “It is not a question of ‘pressure’ and ‘punish’. The Official Guide identifies a range of playing infractions and specifies the penalty in each instance. The referee is merely doing his duty and implementing the rules. Unfortunately, when it comes to behavioural standards, the focus always seems to be on the referee and the relevant committee, and this shifts the fundamental responsibility away from where it really belongs, ie. player and manager.
Every player has to take responsibility for his own behaviour, and it is the duty of each manager to ensure that he does so. It amazes me that a county can be prepared to spend upwards of €1m in pursuit of an All-Ireland title, and will assemble an expensive retinue of analysts, statisticians, dieticians, strength and conditioning experts, coaches, tacticians etc, and yet allow all this intricate preparation and investment to be undermined by its failure to ensure that its players act and play within the rules. Team talks will cover issues such as tactics, deployment and strategy, but how many emphasise behaviour and the necessity of keeping 15 men on the field? And a manager should also be prepared to take action during the course of a match; I can think of a game where a player seemed to be pursuing a personal vendetta and appeared to have lost self-control, and yet the manager stood by and took no action; shouldn’t he have taken that player off, if only for a period of time, and allowed him to ‘cool off’? Responsibility starts with the individual player and his manager.”
Q: 7. Under the former rule, did the power of the CCCC provide referees with a safety net?
A: “The GAA public expects its referees to be infallible, and to make all decisions instantly and correctly. We can put 82,000 people in Croke Park, and the only person on the premises who does not have the option of having a rethink and a second opinion is the referee. In no other walk of life and in no other aspects of our lives could we reasonably expect instant, infallible decision making. We ask so much of our referees, yet, perversely, we are slow to give them the credit which they manifestly deserve.”
Q: 8. How frustrating is it for you to read claims The Sunday Game influences the workings of the CCCC regarding disciplinary matters and can you understand why such claims are made?
A: “The Sunday Game is not, never was, and never will be the only source of information as long as 1.5 million people continue to attend inter-county fixtures each year, and even more watch the 40 live games on TV.
“It is ridiculous to suggest that what may be highlighted on the Sunday Game would not be seen elsewhere, or would somehow not otherwise come into the public domain. It is equally absurd to imagine that the CCCC would be oblivious of any particular incident, and that such an incident would remain a state secret but for the Sunday Game.
“I cannot generalise about what motivates all the claims about the alleged influence of the Sunday Game, but I suspect that some of the claimants are blinded by self-interest. In my observation, the regular and repeated condemnation of video evidence is designed to obscure one fundamental issue viz — did this alleged misdemeanour take place or not? We must never blur the fundamental distinction between right and wrong, no matter how important any individual player is perceived to be.”
Q: 9. What, if any, improvements can be made to the GAA’s disciplinary system?
A: “The GAA’s Disciplinary system is fair and transparent. The CCCC only proposes a penalty, and every player then has the right to a Hearing before the Central Hearings Committee, and the opportunity to defend the charge laid against him. In fact, any individual Gaelic Games player has no less than five opportunities to escape a penalty; in the first instance, he might escape detection by the referee, then he might emerge unscathed at CCCC level, next he can argue his case before the CHC, after that he can go to the Central Appeals Committee, and, ultimately, he can go to the DRA. The system, therefore, consists of five different tiers, at each of which a player may escape the consequences of his alleged actions. Contrast this level of consideration with the system which ruled Munster’s Alan Quinlan out of the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa; Quinlan went undetected by the referee, but was cited, received a 12 weeks suspension with only one opportunity to appeal.”
Q: 10. Would you agree the work done by the CCCC is thankless? A: “Committee work at all levels throughout CLCG will attract a variety of responses, and the CCCC at National level is no different in that respect. Most Gaels will acknowledge and appreciate that decisions are taken as per rule in the collective interests of the Association as a National body. The CCCC is totally committed to the fair and even-handed discharge of its responsibilities, but some who have had issues with a committee decision may take a different view. The fact that some take that different view will not deter or deflect us from doing our duty.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved