Option B fails to secure necessary votes at GAA Special Congress

The final vote of 51 per cent in favour falls short of required 60 per cent threshold

Motion 19 is defeated as it failed to get 60 per cent of the vote. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Motion 19 is defeated as it failed to get 60 per cent of the vote. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho


Option B, the proposal that the GAA football championship moves to a league-based structure, has not been successful. At Saturday’s special congress after a 74-minute debate, the final verdict on motion 19 was 85-83 (51-49 per cent) in favour, well short of the 60 per cent necessary for change.

Option A, motion 18, the redrawing of a province-based groups of eight teams, was proposed by Simon Moroney of the Munster Council and seconded by Wicklow’s Martin Coleman. As it had never achieved any traction, its overwhelming defeat (15-138) was expected, which cleared the way for motion 19 to be addressed.

It was proposed by former president John Horan, who in 2019 appointed the Fixtures Calendar Task Force, which produced the two options. Horan publicly advocated the substance of the proposal during his presidency. He repeated arguments made to GAA officials earlier in the week and suggested that the way forward was to accept the basic idea and tidy it up at next February’s annual congress.

He said that although he had no interest in re-engaging with the general governance of the association, he “felt a sense of loyalty” to the task force he had appointed and further stated that he was “a little disappointed” that divisions of opinion had emerged within the committee.

He said that he wouldn’t be withdrawing the motion even if a suggestion that the matter be reconsidered was suggested and called on delegates to have the courage to accept change.

“I don’t think another committee is the solution,” he said.

Replying to the debate in conclusion he echoed his previous call to defer the implementation of the motion for a year out of consideration for sponsors and partners.

Clare football manager Colm Collins was part of his county’s delegation and firmly in support of the motion. He recalled the ‘Milltown massacre’ of 1979 when Kerry beat Clare by 36 points. “There was a call for mismatches to end,” he said, “but 42 years later they’re still going on.”

Gaelic Players Association CEO Tom Parsons, supported and cited messages of support from a number of intercounty players.

The sidelining of the provincial championships was the reason why the first opposition speaker from Fermanagh rejected the idea.

Ciarán McCavana, Antrim chair, said that the introduction of the Tier 2 Tailteann Cup would be enough of a challenge for next year and to see how that “works out”.

Sligo chair Seán Carroll, supporting, pointed out that the split season had been regarded as impossible but had eventually been introduced and commended playing matches “before bigger crowds in better conditions”. He said that he didn’t want “to have to look my players in the eye after another mismatch”.

Offaly chair Michael Duignan, an All-Ireland hurling medallist, said that his county still retained ambitions to win All-Irelands again. “Times have changed and we are at a very dangerous crossroads if we don’t listen to our players. We’ve a massive opportunity today.” He added that he thought players would walk away if that opportunity wasn’t addressed.

Stephen Barker, Derry chair and a member of the task force, opposed. “Option B is flawed,” he said. “Let’s take a short pause and achieve a unifying proposal. Let’s not be divisive.”

Kevin O’Donovan, Cork CEO and also a member of the task force, spoke in support, rejecting the argument that the proposal was flawed.

He spoke about the frequently cited criticism that sixth-placed teams in Division One would not proceed to the knockout stages whereas Division Three and Four winners would, pointing out that fourth-placed teams in the Munster and Leinster hurling championship are eliminated whereas the Tier 2 McDonagh Cup finalists proceed to preliminary quarter-finals - and no-one objects.

“Perfect change never comes,” he said. “Change is built layer upon layer upon layer. This gives everyone a path, a route, a place.”

Niall Erskine, former GAA trustee from Donegal, reminded delegates that the task force had originally come down against the split season, which proved so successful that it has been introduced for 2022.

“This is not a theoretical exercise. The unfairness that exists in provincial championships is being transferred to the national leagues. We would be replacing the one competition that is structurally sound and encourages development.”

He also asked whether any county present would let Division Four teams compete with Division One sides in their own competitions.

Tyrone delegate Benny Hurl also opposed, saying if the proposal is flawed it should be reconsidered.

Former Cork chair Tracey Kennedy said: “Fears and concerns about change are absolutely natural but if we look in our hearts nobody can say that the current structure is serving the majority of counties well.”

Leitrim’s Declan Bohan said that for last summer’s notorious hammering by Mayo in the Connacht championship, the allocation of family tickets hadn’t even been taken up. “That’s how alone they were.

“It’s now time to be brave. As far as we’re concerned, we accept the flaws that are in it, we know it’s not perfect. We’re happy in Leitrim to accept that and vote for this proposal with its flaws. It gives hope for future.”

Motions 34-37, which related to the regulation of the numbers in international delegations, were deferred “because people are not here and it would be unfair to have discussion,” according to president, Larry McCarthy. A number of the overseas delegates were in virtual attendance.

World GAA, set up earlier this year, will consider the matter and remit to next February’s annual congress.

Early motions concerned the reform of county administration. Pat Teehan, chair of the Leinster Council, proposed that the duties of county development officers be split and between training and facilities and allocated to separate officers. It was passed by 64 per cent to 36 (104-58).

The motion for an audit committee to be added to GAA structures, from county level upwards, was approved by 91-9. Motion 9, to adjust the running of suspensions in case of walkovers, was defeated 51-49 after an intervention by Liam Keane, of the Rules Advisory Committee.

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