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'Will counties be happy to move?' - GAA President on proposed changes to provincial competitions

The GAA’s Fixtures Calendar Review Taskforce published 32 recommendations covering club and inter-county level this week.

GAA President John Horan.
GAA President John Horan.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

GAA PRESIDENT JOHN Horan concedes that counties may object to the prospect of playing in a different province if proposed changes to the inter-county football competitions are implemented.

The association unveiled 32 recommendations as part of the report of the Fixtures Calendar Review Taskforce on Wednesday, which are aimed at restoring the balance between the club and inter-county calendars.

One such recommendation involves restructuring the All-Ireland senior football championship by placing eight teams in the four provincial competitions. The teams would then be split into two groups of four and played off in a round-robin format.

To accommodate this proposal, some counties would have to play in a different province. 

Speaking at the launch of the recommendations, GAA President Horan said that some counties could be reluctant to comply with such a request.

“It’s one of the options” he told the media at Croke Park.

“Will there be a difficulty in the acceptance of that particular proposal? Will counties be happy to move?

“But we’re putting the options out there. And it has always been one that the imbalance in the size of our provinces has created an inequity in the organisation.

With that inequity there you’re going to go for what’s equal, that’s four eights. That is for competition purposes the way of looking at it. It’s not tied down, there would be ways of looking at it with play-offs.

“It may well be a hindrance in the acceptance of those particular proposals.”

Horan remarked that a “play-off” or a “divisional structure” could be used to determine how teams would be divided into four new provincial competitions.

But he added that this aspect of the proposal will be decided when the report from the Fixtures Calendar Review Taskforce goes before GAA’s Central Council in January. It will also be brought to regional seminars around the country before some motions go forward to the 2020 Annual Congress.

eddie-sullivan Eddie Sullivan speaking to the media at Croke Park. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

An online questionnaire was carried out as part of the report which posed various questions about the football and hurling competitions.

There were 1,300 participants, with 46% voting to abolish the provincial football competitions.

“The first thing I would say is that it is very easy to turn to that page and start quoting what 1,300 people say,” said the GAA Director of Player, Club and Games Administration Fergal McGill when asked if this proposal warranted further investigation.

“Don’t know who those 1300 people were, they were obviously GAA people, some were members, some were just passers-by. 

“And you are asking the question in context of the current provincial championships, do you think the current provincial championships should be retained? That is kinda how we looked at that.

“I think there is enough variety in the report in terms of the provincial championship, you have essentially got three different types of provincial championships in there. 

“Option one is two groups of four in each province, option two is the provincial championship more as the league in February and March and the third option is retaining the provincial championships as a straight knock-out.

Fixtures Calandar Review Taskforce chairman Eddie Sullivan added:

We did get submissions and comments to abolish the provincial championships, no question about it, there is no doubt about this. We kicked this around. We felt on balance, and this is a judgement call you have to make, they should be retained in some form or another.

“One of the proposals retains the provincial championship in a much more structured way.”

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