GAA Central Council set to makes calls on proposals raised
Format of the senior intercounty football championship to be discussed on Saturday
Conor McManus and the Monaghan team celebrate with the Anglo Celt cup in the dressing room after they won the championship. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
With the shape and format of the GAA’s senior intercounty football championship due to be discussed next weekend, association president Aogán Ó Fearghail has accepted that the counties at next Saturday’s Central Council meeting may simply decide to persevere with the current structures.
The meeting will discuss the 18 proposals submitted for consideration by counties and the Gaelic Players Association last autumn. Ó Fearghail said that if there were to be proposals to go before next month’s annual congress, decisions will have to be made in the coming days.
“We’ve had sufficient time as an association to look at it, we’ve given them plenty of time. Yes, if there is going to be a motion, then it must come on Saturday because it will be too late other than that. There may not be, there might well be a situation whereby the counties say ‘we can’t agree on any motion, just let this ride’. That might be the decision, I won’t pre-empt the decision but there will be a decision, or no decision, on Saturday.
The president was speaking at Monday’s launch in Croke Park of the GAA’s Club Leadership Development Programme, which will provide training workshops for the principal officers in every club to acquire and develop relevant skills for the positions of chair, secretary, treasurer and PRO.
He said that he had intended that the review of the football championship, which he had proposed on taking office last year, to be conducted by the counties rather than a specially convened work group.
“I initiated the discussion deliberately to have Central Council do it, not to have a separate committee somewhere within Croke Park doing it and then coming back. I wanted Central Council to do it to make sure that counties themselves came up with it.
“Once you go into that type of a process, you can’t then put a blindfold on them and say there’s things you can’t do and there’s things you must do. We’ll have to let that process take its course.”
The debate will however be guided by certain positions already taken by Central Council – no change to the provincial championships, no increase in the number of fixtures and a graded championship, most likely for counties in Division Four.
For instance 17 out of the 18 proposals envisage retaining the provincial championships and 14 recommended the introduction of a grade championship for lower-ranked counties.
Only three of the proposals however advocated the retention of the All-Ireland qualifier system, introduced in 2001 in order to give counties a guaranteed second match in the championship. In the absence of any consensus on how to build an alternative bridge between the provincial and All-Ireland championships the qualifiers may yet be proceeded with as the ‘least bad’ option.
Just six of the proposals floated the idea of a round-robin or Champions League format.
It remains open to any county to bring proposals to congress but Ó Fearghail said that he wasn’t aware of any blueprints being proposed apart from those, which will be under discussion next weekend.
The president was also asked about recent television viewership figures, which showed just two GAA fixtures in the 10 most watched sports events of 2015. It is the fourth time in the past seven years that All-Ireland finals have been eclipsed in the most-watched sports event category.
Ó Fearghail said that television audiences weren’t a matter of concern for the GAA, as the association’s emphasis is on maximising the numbers in attendance at matches.
“I wouldn’t even be familiar with international television figures and that’s being quite honest with you. I would be very familiar with attendances at our matches in the country and they’re generally very, very strong and I would never be complacent. I would absolutely not be complacent but our attendances at the intercounty game are quite good. Television audiences are very different.”