Leinster CEO blames qualifiers for club fixtures chaos
Delaney takes issue with FRC reform proposals but Connacht broadly supportive
Leinster Council chief executive Michael Delaney will become the highest ranking GAA official to take fundamental issue with the recommendations for championship change of the Football Review Committee published before Christmas. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Leinster Council chief executive Michael Delaney has blamed the crisis afflicting GAA club fixtures on the All-Ireland qualifier format.
The remarks are made in his report for Saturday’s annual provincial convention, during which he becomes the highest ranking official to take fundamental issue with the recommendations for championship change of the Football Review Committee – the creation of four eight-county provincial championships – published before Christmas in the FRC’s second report.
Acknowledging that one of the committee’s main intentions was to address the poor treatment of club players in the fixture schedules, he disagrees with the remedy.
“That is a noble ambition but, in my opinion, the report does not remotely deal with this problem.
“Years of experience have led me to the conclusion that the biggest obstacle to the organisation of any kind of viable club competition schedule is the qualifier system in the inter-county senior championships.
“It is unwieldy, time-consuming and practically pointless until the month of August. Yet the FRC barely touched on its existence.”
Proposing that the qualifiers only be made available to counties losing in provincial semi-finals and finals, Delaney goes on to query the basic premise of the FRC blueprint.
“The proposal to have eight teams in each province at the start of the inter-county provincial championships is a bit of a head-scratcher.
“Are we to persuade ourselves that the first three games in the Leinster senior football championship are not really that at all?
“Besides, can somebody honestly tell me what is the attraction – for players, supporters or media – of the loser of a Carlow/Wicklow SFC game heading off to play Waterford or Kerry in the Munster championship, or for the loser of a Longford/Laois game having to head off to Castlebar to play Mayo in the Connacht championship?”
He goes on to criticise what he sees as The FRC’s failure to take into account the hurling championship when drawing up its proposals.
Delaney’s Connacht counterpart John Prenty in his annual report is broadly supportive of the FRC championship proposals, although he would tweak them to allow provincial councils in Ulster and Munster make their own draw to determine what counties would be added to Connacht and Munster.
Prenty also referred to the recently published ESRI report, which found that more than 50 per cent of those who start to play Gaelic games drop out as they get older.
“In many cases we are responsible for the drop-out at adult level. As we sit here at Convention tonight many of our pitches are populated by ordinary players who are anxious to play for the coming season. They ask the same questions:
“When are the fixtures out? When is the season going to start? Who will we get in the championship? When will the season finish? Will the games be played on the scheduled dates? Will we have any meaningful games in the summer time?”
“If I look at the fixtures calendar and fix a date for my wedding can I be sure that there will not be any games? Will our county panellists ever get a chance to play or train with us? Why are there so many players on county panels? Have we any chance of winning anything?
“ All we can guarantee them is that they will start their season up to their ankles in muck and finish it up to their ankles in muck. The middle is a lottery. And we wonder why players drop out.
“It is time to bite the bullet. There should be one, and only one fixture making body in each county.”