‘Proposal B is the vehicle for change,’ says Wexford chairman

League-based championship option gaining traction ahead of special congress vote

Wexford GAA chair Micheál Martin thinks option A – a ‘four eights’ – was unfairly dismissed, but acknowledges it’s too late to tweak it before Saturday’s congress. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Wexford GAA chair Micheál Martin thinks option A – a ‘four eights’ – was unfairly dismissed, but acknowledges it’s too late to tweak it before Saturday’s congress. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Micheál Martin, chair of Wexford GAA and a member of the Fixtures Calendar Task Force, believes that the “four eights” proposal for championship reform was unfairly dismissed from the start.

Martin, one of the most influential figures in the area of fixture reform over the past decade, accepts that the proposal, option A or motion 18 at Saturday’s special congress, which would have moved counties around to constitute four province-based groups, is no longer viable.

Events bear this out, as many counties, including Wexford, have thrown their weight behind option B or motion 19, which provides for a league-based championship and the switching of the former provincial championships to the spring. The view was endorsed on Wednesday by GAA president Larry McCarthy and DG Tom Ryan.

Martin thinks, however, that had the trajectory of the task force findings not been disrupted, a different debate would have taken place.

“It’s very close to two years since we signed off on this part of the report. We probably had our last meeting in late October, early November [2019] and after that there may have been tweaks here and there but the bones of the structure were in place.

“The committee would have considered a huge number of options at the time and I suppose what we’ve landed on is of its time. What we felt was a very radical solution, proposal B, and a less-radical, incorporating the provinces proposal A and the fact that A has been dismissed is probably telling us something as well.

Tweaked

“I think A was dismissed unfairly. Maybe that could have been tweaked before coming to congress – possibly both of them could have been tweaked earlier this year given that we’re now having a debate in the post-lockdown era when, whatever your views, we are thinking about things in a different way.

“Some of the dismissive language at the start of the debate has probably meant that many people doing the dismissing probably haven’t read the full text. To me there are tweaks to the motion that could have made it a viable option although I accept that that’s no longer the case.

“If these motions had come to the congress in 2020, as scheduled, you’d imagine that the debate would have been very different and that the imbalance between A and B wouldn’t have been as pronounced.”

Wexford, he says, were guided in their stance by two influences: the views of their county players and management but also a desire for reform in the football championship.

“The clubs in Wexford went with what the county players and management wanted because they felt that change was required – but strictly for a trial basis, if only for the sheer volume of games with Tailteann Cup added. A Wexford county footballer, who plays club hurling, will play approximately 17 games for the county if the season goes well and another 17 in the club window if he plays both football and hurling.

“We were happy to support change on a trial basis.”

Challenges

It is also his view that the GAA needs to be able to respond more specifically to the separate challenges of individual counties. He says that “one size fits all” solutions are increasingly difficult to implement.

“I’ve served on national committees and you’re wearing a hat for the broader association but once you become a county chair, your primary thoughts are the good of your county and the good of the your club. Covid has only accentuated that. A strategic review might look at how we avoid losing the bigger picture.”

In the immediate frame, he will support the change that he believes is feasible on Saturday.

“The context of this is the past two years. I would have been an advocate of the ‘four eights’ although I’m not sure the exact format we landed on was perfect either. But at the start of the debate it was unfairly dismissed, with some fairly strong language used around it, which was unhelpful, but since then it really hasn’t been properly considered.

“As a result it’s no longer viable and in the context of the mood in Wexford and nationally, proposal B is the vehicle for change in front of us. If it doesn’t get the required 60 per cent on Saturday, I have no doubt that reasonably radical change is coming – and coming soon.”

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