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'Better to change than to die. I think that's very important for hurling'

Club Players Association fixtures coordinator Liam Griffin was speaking in the aftermath of the hurling restructures at Special Congress.

THE DECISIONS TAKEN by the GAA at Congress and Special Congress in 2017 have significantly altered the landscape of the All-Ireland hurling and football championships.

Michael 'Brick' Walsh Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The association has often been accused of being slow to embrace change, but radical overhaul of the showcase competitions in both codes is coming in time for the 2018 campaign.

There will now be seven extra Liam MacCarthy Cup games next summer, and nine more in the Sam Maguire Cup competition.

“In a very interesting way, the whole Super 8s have brought on a lot of unintended consequences,” said Club Players Association fixtures coordinator Liam Griffin on RTÉ’s Sunday Sport yesterday. ”And they’re positive actually.

“Change is good sometimes. If it’s bad you can always revert back. Better to change than to die. I think that’s very important for hurling.”

It’s now anticipated April will be an exclusive club month, as will August apart from the All-Ireland finalists in football and hurling. From September onwards, it’ll be exclusively club action.

Griffin believes this is a perfect opportunity for the GAA to put together a Masters Fixtures Plan for club and county in time for 2018.

The All-Ireland winning Wexford boss said: “This gives them (the GAA) an opportunity to ask, ‘What do we do with the club here?’ We can produce, for the first time ever, a Master Fixtures Plan for everybody.

“So the guy who’s married with a wife and two kids, and the wife doesn’t give a monkeys about hurling, he now knows when he’s playing matches and he might even be able to manage a holiday sometime in the middle of the summer, or whatever.

A view of the press conference Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We need to bring in that bit of order and if we can get all of it to fit together like a piece of a jigsaw, which is not beyond our abilities, why can’t we make it all the better for everybody? So this could be a major seismic shift in the GAA this year.”

In a statement released last week, the CPA said the GAA “have committed to producing a National Master Fixtures Plan by the end of October 2017 for the 2018 season.”

However, the GAA have not publicly confirmed their time frame. A spokesperson for the association told RTÉ Sport last week that the date for the releases of the fixtures list is “provisionally early November.”

“We feel it’s a crisis because we don’t want players walking away from their clubs,” he continued. ”Some players have to wait 11 solid months between championship matches from one year to the next.”

A general view of Croke Park Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Griffin raised several worrying statistics on Sunday:

  • 86.5% of club players surveyed are unhappy with the way club competitions are run
  • 84.2% want a new rule change brought in which would mean the county boards are answerable for ensuring club games are played on the dates they are fixed.
  • 59% of club players have considered walking away from the game due to a lack of defined fixtures schedule

“If you have a guaranteed inter-county time and it stops…If Joe Schmidt can get a team to play rugby in an international competition for as long as it takes to play the Six Nations, why can’t our clubs get people back for four weeks to play their championships?

“No inter-county activity during that period of time, no practice matches, no Portugal (training camps), no nothing. And you’re the same as every other inter-county manager in hurling and football.

“That brings fairness to the inter-county game as a law of unintended consequences to give the club a more centre stage and give it fair play. That’s all we’re asking for. We’re not looking for trouble, we’re looking for solutions.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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