Restricting the club championships within calendar year another success for the FRC

Move has been strongly supported by people associated with successful clubs like Crossmaglen and St Brigid’s

St Vincent’s celebrate their AIB All-Ireland senior club football championship success last March at Croke Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

St Vincent’s celebrate their AIB All-Ireland senior club football championship success last March at Croke Park. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 09:00

At Saturday’s Central Council meeting dedicated to its second report, the Football Review Committee formally sailed into the sunset.

In the space of its two years the FRC has accomplished a great deal. At present its legacy proposal, the black card, is being enforced in the football championship and even if that enforcement has not been uniform it has played a major role in making calculated fouling less attractive for defenders.

It’s no secret that the second report, drawn up to try to improve structures rather than the actual playing rules, was a more theoretical exercise that didn’t fuel the same passions as the original, concerned as it was with improving discipline and making football a game that rewards skill.

But the task in the committee’s second report was just as difficult if not more so but the reward for success even greater. For all that tackling indiscipline has been a Sisyphean labour, in relation to club fixtures the rock hasn’t even been rolled up the mountain in the first place.

The planning and maintenance of a coherent fixtures programme has been a source of constant agonising for decades between the needs of ordinary club players and the demands of county teams and the inter-county landscape.

Long history

For instance a perfectly good initiative to prescribe extra time in early championship matches – in order to prevent or at least modify the fixtures mayhem that replays cause – was reversed because of the loss of revenue threatened to provincial councils.

The GAA has long identified the problem but simply failed to address it.

A desire to deal with the matter once and for all prompted the FRC’s second report. The reason why it proposed that the provincial championships resolve themselves into four eight-county competitions was a simple ambition to make the early rounds of the championship more symmetrical so that county championships could be more easily organised.

At the focus group meetings, which discussed the subject matter of FRC I, chair Eugene McGee in an advisory preamble said there was no point going to Congress or Central Council with ideas that were not going to be accepted.

That caution was effectively shelved when it came to the ‘four eights’ idea because championship structure is something that is zealously guarded and there was little chance that the annual parcelling out of what would almost invariably be weaker counties from the bigger provinces to the smaller ones would find favour.

Contesting a strange province’s championship would have been disorientating for the counties who found themselves in that situation whereas the competitive pay-out from weaker Leinster or Ulster counties being diverted into Munster or Connacht was uncertain.

In the thick of such concerns the motivation to make club fixtures easier to organise went largely unexamined.

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