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28 Nov 2021

Kildare GAA: After Congress, what now for the GAA and the football championship

Rocky road ahead as compromise now the only way forward

New GAA President to meet Louth GAA chiefs over stadium in Dundalk

GAA President Larry McCarthy

And so, and not for the first time, the grassroots of the GAA said 'No.'
It was hailed as the start of a new era, a historic change to the football championship as we have know it since the foundation of the Association but opinions were divided, counties were divided, provinces were divided, players were divided and as usual when all else fails that great auld fallback scenario prevails — the status quo.
So what went wrong?
How did the high powered committee that spent months on end devising a plan that they felt would bring the senior football championship into the 21st century, fail, and make no mistake regardless of how much it is dressed up, failed miserably.
Larry McCarthy, pictured above, GAA President, gave it his blessing as did his predecessor John Horan, Director General Tom Ryan; GPA CEO Tom Parsons; as did most county players (not all mind you) along with the majority of county boards as far as we can gather.
Granted the provincial councils were not overly enamoured with it, not mind you because they felt it was not the right way to go, but more because it was felt that it could demean the status of the provincial championships and with that the provincial councils. Turkeys voting for Christmas springs immediately to mind.
Our northern brethren, not unusually mind you, said no but in fairness the Ulster Championship is fairly sacrosanct when it comes to GAA affairs in that part of this great little green isle.
No doubt it was felt that Larry McCarthy would bring the 'over seas' vote along, and with that section of the vote outnumbering the combined voting strength from the northern region, it was probably felt it would negate the vote there.
We were told coming up to Congress on Saturday that the three proposals were not perfect, but if so why were the proposed in the first place.
Why should anyone vote for a new championship format that before it is even passed you are told it is not perfect?
Why not make it perfect, or as near as perfect it can be made. There will always be those who hold the view that the status quo should remain but asking counties, along with the rest, to vote for a new championship that is deemed to be imperfect seems lubricious.
In the end the vote was split more or less 50/50 and there in lies a problem, a big problem.
President Larry said immediately after Congress last weekend that he would form a new committee to look at it again and come back with new proposals for the next congress due in February 2022, no doubt hoping that a new championship structure would be approved and then implemented come the start of the 2023 season.
Will it be as easy as that?
When one considers the make-up of the committee that came up with the three proposals last weekend one has to wonder are they actually on the same planet as the rest of us.
Just take a quick look at what was on offer.
Option 1 was to move counties from one province into another province to make up four groups of eight. But really all that meant was that a so called weaker county instead of getting a hiding from a county from within their own province would now get a hiding from a county from a different province.
It was an absolute ridiculous option but still made it on to the clár and while it was defeated with something like 90 per cent of delegates voting against it, one must still ask the question why, or how, did it make it through in the first place.
Option B was the one that got the most traction, but still there was an opinion out there it was not the answer to the problem that the championship currently has.
And remember it was not until less than a half a week before congress was due that both President Larry and Director General Tom stated publicly that they were putting their weight behind the proposal.
Why did they not go on a nation wide tour of the counties, meeting county boards, etc and promoting the option they felt was the right one.
As for the GPA, they too will have to look at their stance.
There is no doubt that the majority of county players were in favour of the change, especially counties that rarely have no more than two championship games a year, and with this option were guaranteed to have seven, and even more importantly, at the best time of the year for playing football.
However when you see that Mayo, for instance, the home of Tom Parsons who has given tremendous service to his native county over the years yet he, in his capacity as CEO of the GPA failed to get his own county to support what his body was supporting, it shows, that the players body, for all the good work they do for their elite members, failed to influence GAA policy, something they should have know from previous experience.
It is understood that all four semi finalists of 2021, Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone and Mayo voted against, so from that one can assume either the county players within those counties were not in favour, or more probably, their county boards took little or no notice of the opinions of their players, but the fact that all four semi-finalists went against, tells its own story.
So now we await Larry's new committee that, remember has a mere 12 weeks to come up with an acceptable proposition.
A difficult task to say the least.
Down-grading the provincial championship to pre-season competition with the outcome having no recognition when it comes to the All-Ireland series will never get approval.
Getting everyone on board is going to be one tough ask; getting the GAA, the most conservative body in the entire country, to agree to a fundamental change in the way it runs the football championship is going to be incredible difficult.
Anyone that thinks otherwise is living in cloud cuckoo land!

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