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new era I would give another half of dozen reasons for rejecting Proposal B if space permitted

GAA Delegates had to choose between lesser of two evils so status quo was the only option

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GAA president Larry McCarthy delivered the news that Proposal B had been rejected. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

GAA president Larry McCarthy delivered the news that Proposal B had been rejected. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

GAA president Larry McCarthy delivered the news that Proposal B had been rejected. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Last Saturday's GAA Special Congress reminded me of a joke I heard during the week about the fate of a Kerry and a Tyrone man who were both facing the death penalty.

Granted a last wish, the Tyrone man said he wanted to watch a video of the county's dramatic All-Ireland semi-final win over Kerry this year. And what was the Kerry man's wish? 'Shoot me first'.

There was an element of that in the debate about reforming the All-Ireland football championship. It was a case of choosing between the lesser of two evils.

It was a GAA version of Hobson's Choice: Accept Proposal B with its inherent flaws or Proposal A which was a complete non-starter. Not much of a choice then.

It was probably inevitably that the status quo would prevail in those circumstances.

Having said that, I welcome the debate because I think there is finally a realisation within the association that the championship structures are broken and are no longer fit for purpose

Former Waterford football boss John 'Jackson' Kiely put it colourfully during the week when he said there was no point in flogging a dead horse when it is already dead.

The existing championship structure was akin to a dinosaur. There were only bones of it left he suggested. And so say all of us.

Everybody now accepts that change is necessary.

This restructuring must include more competitive matches, a more competitive championship, meaningful games for weaker counties, closing the gap between the weaker and stronger counties and finally getting rid of the sacred cow that is the provincial championships.

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Kerry legend Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Kerry legend Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Kerry legend Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

But a word of warning: the world of Shangri-La doesn't exist in either real life or on the country's playing pitches.

As I have often written - in theory, communism and socialism ought to have prospered as they advocated equality, yet both failed miserably in the real world.

Sadly, sport merely reflects wider society - where the strong get stronger and the weak grow weaker and the gap between the two grows all the time.

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Regardless of what championship structure is in place, it won't solve the problem of inequality between the counties. A Division 4 team will not become All-Ireland contenders overnight just because there is a new system in place.

I noted several speakers during Saturday's debate spoke about the hammerings weaker counties have endured in the provincial championships.

But the reality is that there are one-sided games in Division 3 and 4 leagues, as well as in the hurling championship which has five tiers.

Mayo beat Tyrone by 13 points in the final of the Nicky Rackard Cup this year, while Fermanagh had 15 points to spare over Cavan in the Lory Meagher final. In the Christy Ring final Offaly beat Derry by 21 points - and these competitions are supposed to cater for teams of equal ability.

So, let's remember one thing: restructuring the football championship doesn't necessarily mean it will be more competitive.

The other recurring theme from the debate was that those in favour of Proposal B conceded that it had flaws, but argued that at least is was better than the existing system.

This is not a logical argument - two wrongs don't make a right in any walk of life.

So, I welcome the decision to reject Proposal B.

And here's the reasons why:

There was no cost-benefit analysis study done on how it would impact on the GAA finances. The association's revenue stream has been decimated by Covid-19 for the last two years and it needs money.

Let's be clear Proposal B would have meant the death knell of the provincial championships, and ultimately the provincial councils.

Only ten counties would be involved in the knockout phase of the All-Ireland championship. The rest would only take part in the qualification phase of the championship.

Half the teams in the knock-out phase of the Sam Maguire would be ranked lower than the counties that finished sixth, seventh and eighth in Division 1. This is not the way forward.

My biggest gripe is that three quarters of the counties would be finished by the second week of June.

The two teams that reached the All-Ireland semi-final would have played ten games in 13 weeks.

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Conn Kilpatrick of Tyrone celebrates with the Sam Maguire Cup

Conn Kilpatrick of Tyrone celebrates with the Sam Maguire Cup

Conn Kilpatrick of Tyrone celebrates with the Sam Maguire Cup

Believe me, I would give another half of dozen reasons for rejecting Proposal B if space permitted.

What needs to happen now is to go back to the drawing board and prepare a better plan in time for next year's Congress in February.

But let's not roll the drum and recruit the usual suspects to sit on the committee. Instead of having a Central Council delegate, a county board chairman, a GPA representative and a provincial council secretary, the GAA needs to recruit elsewhere.

These gentlemen all have vested interests to protect and inevitably whatever plan they come up with will be flawed.

So let the GAA widen their search and recruit some fresh faces and voices. We need people who can think outside the box and let's not kick this issue beyond next February GAA Congress.

It's now a case of Carpe Occasionem - seize the moment.

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