CPA wants April declared a club-only month
Players’ body also want All-Ireland club competitions completed in calendar year
CPA chairman Michéal Briody. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
On Tuesday the Club Players’ Association released their proposals for a national fixtures plan, which they believe would redress the imbalance between club and county activities.
At a media launch in the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, CPA chair Micheál Briody also said talks with the GAA at national level were “at a standstill” and that it was unlikely the association would again seek official recognition from Croke Park after a motion to last February’s Annual Congress was withdrawn.
“I don’t think we’ll put it forward again,” he said when the matter was raised.
During the course of questions, it was acknowledged that the GAA had introduced worthwhile reforms in recent years, from the regrading of underage competitions to the gradual introduction of same-day outcomes in inter-county matches in order to restrict the disruptive impact of replays on club schedules.
Briody said that Croke Park’s ideas on fixtures were “similar but nowhere near as thought out as ours”.
He later said that the CPA wanted to see “a fixtures masterplan” at national level and criticised the number of incremental changes being made to the GAA season, principally the introduction from 2018 of a round-robin format at the quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland football championship and the proposed establishment of a similar structure for the provincial hurling championships.
He also accepted that a lobbying campaign would be necessary to take the arguments to the counties and persuade delegates to Congress and the GAA’s Central Council to support measures to deal with the issue.
The organisation, which claims 24,000 members and was founded last January with the stated aim of ‘fixing the fixtures,’ presented a number of perspectives at the launch to emphasise the seriousness of the problem.
Although a number of proposals have been drawn up, the broadest one – entitled ‘The Green Plan’ – was the main focus of former All-Ireland-winning Wexford manager Liam Griffin, who with former Cork football captain Derek Kavanagh is one of the organisation’s two fixtures co-ordinators.
Its structure is based on replacing the National Hurling League with provincial leagues, splitting the MacCarthy Cup into two groups of five counties and introducing a two-tier football championship – the later a concept that has failed to attract support from the inter-county Gaelic Players Association.
All of the proposals rest on three principles: the entire month of April must be a club-only month with no inter-county games, challenge matches or training; the All-Ireland club championships must be played in the calendar year and the month of December must be free for all club and county players for necessary downtime and recovery.
It was pointed out that all three of these principles can be implemented by Central Council and wouldn’t therefore need to go before Congress.
In his opening address Briody declared: “We are here today to present a national fixture plan; our challenge today to others is to take up the gauntlet and bring this to Special Congress to drive the change that is needed. This shows what is possible. A national fixtures plan that addresses the main priorities and sticking points.”
The reference is to the upcoming Special Congress at the end of September, which is due to consider the proposals for a new hurling championship, based on a round-robin format in the provincial championships.
On the subject of the hurling proposals, Briody had this to say: “We don’t have a view beyond the fact that they are going to suffocate clubs further and further.”
CPA registration and IT co-ordinator Michael Higgins presented examples of club players’ discontent concerning inadequate scheduling, saying they were “just a sample of what we received”.
The complaints ranged from fixtures called off at short notice to others run off in an unreasonably short time-frame and some postponed for unacceptable amounts of time.
Former Armagh player and Crossmaglen multi-All-Ireland medallist Aaron Kernan spoke about how the club championship calendar had adversely affected his inter-county career. He also laid out a number of examples of how county teams had suffered because of the involvement of their leading clubs in the later stages of the championship.
He called for the introduction of a calendar year for the club championships, something that Croke Park officials are keen to introduce but have so far been unable to persuade Central Council of its merits.
Kernan said he loved the atmosphere of All-Ireland club finals but didn’t believe that they had to be March 17th and cited the non-senior club finals that take place in January.
“People say: “St Patrick’s Day is the day for clubs – but what about the junior and intermediate?”
Liam Griffin said Wexford would propose a motion to September’s Special congress that April be declared a club-only month.
Although attention was drawn to the lack of fixtures proposals coming from the GAA at national level, a Croke Park source said the association would be tabling motions, which will be launched well in advance of the Special Congress.