pat's view | 

There is no magic bullet to solve all the issues surrounding the All-Ireland series

It doesn’t give me any great pleasure to be calling out the Association for some of its shortcoming, but if it has to be done well so be it.
Kerry legend Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Kerry legend Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Pat Spillane

As you know, I am passionate about the GAA, but unlike the rugby, and more particularly the horse racing pundits, I am not and never will be a cheerleader for the sport.

I don’t turn a blind eye to the problems that exist, and I will never become an extension of the public relations department of the Association.

As a GAA man it hurts me at times to criticise.

It doesn’t give me any great pleasure to be calling out the Association for some of its shortcoming, but if it has to be done well so be it.

The lazy narrative surrounding yours truly is that I’m merely a provocateur, criticising for the sake of criticising.

Funny enough when somebody else criticises the Association it is labelled as a passionate argument whereas my criticism is called a rant. I can’t win.

The GAA too have a habit of taking out the man, not the ball so to speak, when it answers criticism. It is a cheap tactic.

Anyway, something strange happened two weeks ago when I wrote about the GAA fixtures calendar for 2022.

Guess what? Everybody agreed with my opinion, which has to be a first.

Nobody on social media or elsewhere disagreed with my view that the GAA had scored a spectacular own goal by choosing to complete all inter-county competitions by July – unless there is a replay in either All-Ireland final.

At official level the GAA continue to defend the decision.

My old pal from college days, GAA president Larry McCarthy, said the GAA will not take a financial hit and the new split season will facilitate the 98 per cent of its players who play only at club level.

Well, judging from the reaction I’ve got, I would suggest that the majority of GAA members are against the idea.

No national sports organisation can simply fold away its tent and take its primary product out of the shop window for nearly six months.

The kind of challenges the GAA face from other sports was illustrated last weekend.

A former Cork minor All-Ireland football medal winner Patrick Campbell and Tony Butler, a Harty Cup medalist with St Flannan’s College and minor player for Clare, played for Munster in their Champions’ Cup win over Wasps.

Trust me, this time next year there will be a clamour for the issue to be revisited.

Still, on the topic of sorting fixtures the GAA has established a task force to again examine the format of the All-Ireland football series with a view to having a motion ready for debate at next February’s Congress.

Though the Task Force included some very distinguished and well-regarded officials there is an element of ‘round up the usual suspects’ about it.

So, we have full-time GAA staff, Central Council members and four Provincial Council vice-chairmen.

Surely, room could have been found for either a current, or ex, county manager, a current or ex-county player or a high-profile business executive who is involved in the association.

Think Jim Gavin or, even though he has a hurling background, Liam Sheedy.

Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin would ideal to help oversee a new-look All-Ireland SFC

Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin would ideal to help oversee a new-look All-Ireland SFC

I can’t image this Task Force coming up with anything remotely radical. Instead all the stake holders will be hell bent on protecting their own patch.

The presence of the four Provincial Council vice-chairmen almost certainly guarantees that the link between the provincial series and the All-Ireland will be kept.

The Task Force could do themselves a big favour by examining the proposal made by the chief executive of Cork GAA Kevin O’Donovan.

He is one of the brightest of the new breed of GAA officials emerging.

O’Donovan has suggested the four league divisions be changed, with Division 1A and IB catering for the top 16 counties – but not on a graded basis as currently operates with Division 1 and 2.

Likewise, the bottom 16 counties would operate in Division 2A and 2B.

The top four teams from Division IA and IB together with the top two finishers in Divisions 2A and 2b would qualify for the Sam Maguire All-Ireland series with the remaining counties competing in the Tailteann Cup.

It would be guaranteed in rule that the final of the secondary competition would be played on the same weekend as the All-Ireland final.

The interesting bit of O’Donovan’s proposal is his suggestion that the provincial championships be played between Rounds 3 and 4 of the League, with the provincial champions being awarded two points and the runners-up one point which they can add to the total number of points they secure in the league.

It is an innovative idea which is worth a try. There is no magic bullet to solve all the issues surrounding the All-Ireland series.

But there is agreement that something needs to be done about it.


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