Queen’s to host all four third-level finals next year
Further signal of GAA’s intent to unite all codes under one umbrella
At yesterday’s announcement of details for the Queen’s Festival were: (from left) Caroline O’Hanlon, Armagh and QUB, Walter Walsh, Kilkenny and UCD, Pat Quill, president of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, Bryan Menton, Meath and DIT, Aileen Lawlor, president of the Camogie Association, GAA president Liam Ó Néill and Grace Walsh, Kilkenny and UL. Photograph: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
The GAA has sent out a further signal of its intent to unite all codes under the one umbrella with the staging of all four third-level competition finals in the one venue.
The Sigerson (football), Fitzgibbon (hurling), Ashbourne (camogie) and O’Connor (women’s football) cups will all be hosted by Queens University next February and March – a new move which GAA president Liam O’Neill has described as “very much in line with the policy at national level”.
O’Neill has already made the unification of all codes one of the main priorities of his term as president: this would also include handball (already under the wing of the GAA) and rounders, although the most sweeping move would be the GAA combining with camogie and women’s football, which remain largely independent organisations.
“We are looking for the one body,” said O’Neill, speaking in Croke Park at the launch of the third level ‘festival’ of games at Queen’s next spring. “And this festival event in Queen’s next year is very much in line with the policy at national level, to combine the organisations. I think the movement towards that is now inevitable. This event shows that people are like-minded. And that’s heartening.
Leap of faith
“I know it does involve a leap of faith, and some people within the organisations will need to revaluate where they are. But it is about the common good, more than individual position. There would be only one overall president. Maybe the other four could have a vice-president. Because one person couldn’t cover it. I’m not saying it will be easy, but might open up huge possibilities for us to do what we do better.”
It has been agreed that three motions (camogie, GAA and women’s football) will go before their relevant Congress’ next year to begin process on formal basis: “Anyone can pull back at any stage if they want,” added O’Neill. “But the GAA has already taken the decision. Camogie have already taken the decision. Ladies football have discussed it. If the will is there it could be done over a very short period.”
O’Neill also pointed towards some of the potential benefits of the mergence of all codes: “It would mean full access to almost €1 billion in property. And drive around the country yourself and see if our facilities are used 16 hours a day. I don’t think they are. So I think there is space. With rounders as well, we could explore that. And by uniting camogie and hurling we could make both stronger. It’s hard to paint that picture, when everyone is wondering how it will affect them, but benefits could be enormous.”
There was a slightly more cautious response to the news that Cuala GAA club in south Dublin was buying up some of the playing grounds belonging to Blackrock rugby club: “It is breaking new ground,” said O’Neill, “and in any situation where we don’t have new ground, the idea of buying up ground like that works well. You’d probably have to say it’s a pity Blackrock have to sell, but it is better it goes to sport than to say housing. Because in that area of Dublin we do need the facilities. So I would have no difficulty with it, or encouraging it. The same with sharing facilities with athletics.”
O’Neill also welcomed the news that Tipperary have emerged from four years of downward trends to report a financial surplus for 2013, includuing an increase in gate receipts of €143,000; the Kerry county board are also reporting positive financial results for 2013, recording a profit of €284,000 compared to the 2012 loss of €157,000. Overall team expenditure was down some €11,000 – the figures for 2013 of €755,000 compared to the 2012 figure of €766,000. Gate receipts were up €31,000, on 2012, directly due to the replays in the senior hurling championship. “I think there has been a huge realisation that we can’t continue to spend unless we have the money first,” said O’Neill. “And in fairness county officers have responded. Some counties might still come in with small losses. I’m not worried about that, as long as the losses are manageable. Counties can budget, but they’ve no idea what the income or expenditure will be. It’s about trying to turn even. I have to say our financial committee have made an enormous effort to help focus on that.”
The Queen’s Festival begins with the Ashbourne Cup (February 13th) and follows with the Sigerson (February 20-23rd), the Fitzgibbon (Feb 27th-March 2nd) and the O’Connor (March 20-23rd).