Proposal to switch hurling and football matches put GAA council in ‘terrible position’, says Burns

GAA president says condensed championship has caused problems and imagines there will be change

GAA president Jarlath Burns. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

GAA president Jarlath Burns has acknowledged that the proposal to switch next weekend’s All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals, on Saturday, with Sunday’s Tailteann Cup semi-finals put Central Council “in a terrible position”.

“I asked for an Árd Chomhairle meeting last night,” Burns said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, “because it just felt that we have five hurling games left, three of those are going to be on a Saturday. We have 14 football matches. And really last night it became a contest between which are we going to nurture and promote more.

“It put Árd Chomhairle in a terrible position, because they are two competitions that we do want to promote and we do want to nurture – the hurling championship and the Tailteann Cup, which is a new competition.”

The extraordinary prospect of the four semi-finalists (Down v Sligo and Antrim v Laois) in the Tailteann Cup, the GAA’s Tier 2 football championship, being told at six days’ notice to play a day earlier than planned in the fixtures calendar caused huge discontent, especially in Sligo whose chair Seán Carroll lobbied other counties by email in advance of Sunday’s meeting.

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“I have to give credit to give Sligo,” Burns acknowledged. “If they ever changed the name of the Tailteann Cup, they should change it to the Seán Carroll Cup! He’s the chair of Sligo, he spent the entire day yesterday canvassing to ensure that Sligo would be able to play on Sunday. And he deserves great credit.

“I rang him after the vote, even though it went probably against me, because I felt that we should have had the hurling on Sunday, that was just my own opinion. But I think Sligo, in particular, deserve great credit for the passion that they showed in wanting their competition to be on Sunday.”

He added that there was further reason for the proposed switch of the hurling quarter-finals (Clare v Wexford and Dublin v Cork).

“It was added to the fact that Wexford, who are out to play on Saturday against Clare, also are hosting the hurling and camogie Féile. They have hundreds of volunteers all around the county who are going to be involved in that; they now have to make a choice, to go to Thurles or stay at home to host the teams that are coming.

“That’s not an ideal situation whatsoever,” he accepted. “It’s yet another aspect of this condensed championship that we have, along with all of the other things that we have discovered. And that is why we are doing the consultations, and that is why I would imagine that next year there’s going to be change.”

For all Sligo’s lobbying, the vote came perilously close to approving the switch, falling short of the required 60 per cent when 57.4 backed the proposal.

Burns also said that he is confident there will be change to the format of the football championship.

“We’re doing consultations at the moment with the provinces. Last week we were in Leinster and Munster, this week we’re in Ulster and Connacht. We will then discuss it at our next Árd Chomhairle meeting.

“One of the themes coming through really is the lack of jeopardy. I share this view.

“The league is there as a development competition; it’s seven games and it allows teams to make incremental developments and improvements. Louth is a great example of that, even Derry going from Division Four to Division One, Westmeath. There are plenty of counties who have done that, Laois are another one.

“The championship should have jeopardy; it should be more of a blunt instrument. The clue is in the title of the competition, the championship is there to get champions.

“While we have a great competition within that now, which is the Tailteann Cup, I just think that one of the major themes that is emerging from this is that there should be a lot more jeopardy, there should be more winning, more losing, more disappointments, more triumphs. I think that’s what next year’s championship will look more like.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times