Croke Park looking forward to engaging with CPA

Fixtures committee chairman Eamonn O’Sullivan says CPA input will prove useful

Páraic Duffy: the GAA director general said at Tuesday’s launch of his annual report that the motions down for discussionat Annual Congress should benefit club players. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Páraic Duffy: the GAA director general said at Tuesday’s launch of his annual report that the motions down for discussionat Annual Congress should benefit club players. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

The GAA has said it is looking forward to engaging with the Club Players Association as part of ongoing efforts to address the fixtures’ crisis within Gaelic games.

Former Kerry secretary Eamonn O’Sullivan, who chairs Croke Park’s central fixtures planning committee (CFPC), which monitors and reviews fixture planning at all levels, said the CPA would benefit the process.

 His comments come a couple of days after the CPA and Páraic Duffy, GAA director general, disagreed in public over measures going before next month’s GAA Annual Congress and intended to reform the All-Ireland football championship and limit the time taken up by the inter-county championship.

 The CPA wanted the proposals withdrawn pending further research into the problem – essentially the squeezing of club schedules by the expansion of the inter-county game. But Duffy said at Tuesday’s launch of his annual report that the motions down for discussion would benefit club players.

 “In my opinion having extra-time rather than replays is of huge benefit to clubs. Certainly bringing forward the All-Ireland finals is of huge benefit to clubs. So I can’t see how they are not supporting those proposals [but] that’s their right.”

 The club association had informally suggested bringing the All-Irelands forward to the beginning of August.

 O’Sullivan for his part said he would welcome talks with the new body.

 “Absolutely. All our committee is trying to do is improve the lot of club players but it seems to me that it’s in each individual county that you start and try to get that done within the overall changes at national and provincial level.

 “It’s not easy and working with the CPA would be great because we have a lot of knowledge and a lot of data. If we could see what the club players are proposing and look at it with them and together with the counties we could make real progress.”

Fixtures chaos

 As part of that effort, the CFPC will be undertaking a survey of all counties to establish how effectively their club fixtures programmes are operating and in the case of difficulties to find out what is causing them.

“We have a plan to monitor all the counties and engage with them to find out how fixtures have gone for them and what role the inter-county played in it. People will tell you that every county’s in trouble but that would not be true. Then again as someone said, if every county comes back 100 per cent, there’s something wrong there as well.

“We would like to emphasise that if anything goes wrong to let us know about it. Is the difficulty local; is it inter-county or are postponements being granted too easily?”

 Preliminary work in the area has established a perhaps surprising level of satisfaction with the match schedules in a number of places.

 “There’s been an analysis done in seven counties and five of them have come out reasonably well. Without real facts, everyone has a story but the feeling in the committee is that maybe two-thirds of the counties run a very good fixtures programme with the biggest complaint the lack of county players for league matches.

 “They’re available for the championship but then a run at inter-county level means championships run late and that becomes a problem.”

 One possible area of disagreement between O’Sullivan’s committee and the CPA – Kevin Higgins from Galway is a member of both – is the relative weight to be attached to national initiatives as opposed to local implementation.

 “At the end of the day it has to be for individual counties,” according to O’Sullivan. “You go from the Corks and Tipperarys down here up to the Fermanaghs of the world and there has to different approaches in different counties if you’re going to make it work.

 “There’s no one big solution and I have grave doubts that there will be a magic formula but if each county could improve a small bit, that would be a step forward.”

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