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'You can try and set the tone, and set a culture. I’m not sure penalties are the way to go about it.'

New Director-General Tom Ryan on the difficulties in improving the lot of club players.

GAA Director-General Tom Ryan and President John Horan at yesterday's briefing.
GAA Director-General Tom Ryan and President John Horan at yesterday's briefing.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

THE GAA’S NEW Director-General believes ‘it is very, very difficult’ for the association at national level to dictate to individual county boards how to run their club championship.

Tom Ryan held his first media briefing yesterday after succeeding Páraic Duffy last month.

The Carlow native was asked about the area of club fixtures which continues to dominate the agenda given the problems and frustrations facing club players throughout the country.

When asked about what role the Club Players’ Association will have during his tenure, Ryan touched on the wide array of formats that different counties use.

“What they’re (the CPA) seeking to achieve is not unreasonable. I think everybody would like to see is get to that stage where we have a decent fixture programme mapped out in advance for people.

“The difficulty is in the ‘how’ bit – how you go about doing that because there are all manner of local complexities attached to fixtures born out of the different shape and size of different counties.

“It is very, very difficult for us here in Croke Park to ordain to Leitrim versus Cork what their fixture programme should be and to monitor that. The GAA is built from the ground up and that does entail a significant amount of local authority and local control.

“The job of delivering the objectives of the CPA will be trying to harness locally county committees and making sure that fixture programmes that are derived locally fulfil what all club players want and what the Association wants, not just the CPA.”

Paul Schutte celebrates Victorious All-Ireland club hurling winning captain Paul Schutte. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ciaran McGrath and Micheal Lundy lift the cup Corofin players toasting their All-Ireland club football final victory. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Do the GAA need to show more national leadership or have a role regarding counties’ fixtures?

“You can do a few things,” said Ryan.

“You can try and set the tone, and set a culture. I’m not sure penalties are the way to go about it.

“Sometimes we introduce penalties for things and we don’t observe them strictly enough. Of course we have a role. If I was to say we don’t that would be a serious abdication of duty.

“But I think where real change can be effected is locally.”

Ryan feels it is too early to make a definitive judgement on whether preserving the month of April for club fixtures is working.

“It’s 17 April, it’s maybe a little bit early to say. I’m hearing lots of anecdotal stuff but we’ll know at the end of April definitively in terms of the volume of games that have been played.

“The impact of the weather has been very unfortunate but that’s not really an excuse. We’ll measure it and judge it when we get to early May but until then I’ll reserve judgement on it.”

In relation to moving the All-Ireland finals from their traditional August starting dates, Ryan does not envisage further changes to the dates of the showpiece games and he is aware of the worries of those that the month of September is being ceded to other sports as the inter-county GAA action has concluded.

David Burke lifts the Liam McCarthy David Burke toasted All-Ireland glory last September.

Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire Cup Stephen Cluxton savoured an All-Ireland triumph last September. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“There are practicalities in terms of how far you can go back and the degree to which you can compress things. There’s probably not a huge amount more scope from where we are at the moment.”

“I do see a concern. That decision wasn’t taken lightly. You’re trying to weigh up the benefits of promotion in the broader sense versus the calendar pressures and getting games played in weather that is still mildly temperate at least.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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