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2017 Congress – GAA hierarchy stamp their authority

February 27, 2017

Despite opposition from the two player representative groups the GPA and the CPA round-robin system at the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final stage will be introduced next year after the so-called ‘Super 8’ motion was passed by a margin of 76%-24% at GAA Congress on Saturday. Co Boards overwhelmingly supported the proposal of Ard Stiúrthóir Paraic Duffy leaving both players associations in no doubt about who is the boss when it comes to GAA affairs.

The new structure will see the introduction of two four-team groups to replace the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals for the next three years and the All-Ireland Finals will be scheduled for August in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and extra-time being used in all knockout Championship matches except for Provincial and All Ireland Finals.

According to Duffy“The voice of club players have been heard with the motions that have been passed, the motions in relation to extra-time and bringing forward our All-Ireland Championships will benefit club players

“This is a change for the next couple of years, we are trying something out. If there is a better way to be found in two or three years time I’d say let’s go for it. For the moment, I think we have taken a good step forward.”

FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP CHANGE SINCE 2001

The adoption of the “Super 8” is the first championship change since the introduction of the “qualifiers system” in 2001. The reality of the last 16 years of qualifiers (introduced to give the perceived weaker counties more championship football) has seen only 3 counties out of the bracket of counties it was supposed to help reach the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Fermanagh (without a provincial title) were beaten by Mayo in 2004, Wexford (last provincial championship 1945) lost to Tyrone in 2008 and Tipperary (last provincial title 1935) beaten last year by Mayo.

For the next 3 years those weaker counties who make it through to the last 8 of the championship will now have to play 3 matches to reach the last four. How many times can David slay Goliath? Access to the big stage for the “weaker counties” has been made considerably harder. In 16 years of qualifiers only 3 managed to slip through the net into the last four, now that the net has been re-enforced it will be interesting to see over the next 3 years how the “weaker counties” do under the new system.

FLAWED SYSTEM?

Taking a look at how the “Super 8” is structured, each team will play one home match, one away match, and one match at Croke Park leaves me of the opinion that you could be left with a number of matches in both groups that will have no significance or have any real appeal to the supporters. Let’s take the 2016 quarter finalists and split them into the system that will be used for next year’s draw as an example. Group 1-Kerry, Galway, Donegal, Westmeath Group 2- Dublin, Tyrone, Tipperary, Clare

If we use a current teams form guide to plot the results- Group 1 Round 1- Kerry bt Galway, Donegal bt Westmeath Round 2- Kerry bt Westmeath, Donegal bt Galway Group 2-Round 1- Dublin bt Tipperary, Tyrone bt Clare Round 2- Dublin bt Clare, Tyrone bt Tipperary.

The final series of matches Round 3 in both Groups has 2 dead rubber matches between two sets of pointless teams and 2 matches that are for positional purposes as all 4 teams are already through to the All-Ireland semi-finals. What appeal to supporters are the Westmeath v Galway game and the Clare v Tipperary game which are no more than glorified challenge games given their standings in the group. The Kerry v Donegal and the Dublin v Tyrone games look OK but with your team in the semi-final and a trip to Dublin in the offing a lot of supporters from Kerry, Donegal and Tyrone will give these games as miss, as they will lack the real intensity of Championship. Whilst the GAA have introduced more championship matches will they pull in enough revenue to counteract the losing of championship replays. There were a total of 4 drawn championship games in 2016. Aha but then again those at the helm are shrewd business people and the TV. deals that have been done will more than likely off set and shortfall in attendances if the games pan out in my outlined possible scenario. Then again there is nearly always a solution as one can manipulate the draw to decree that the two strong teams and the two perceived weaker teams are drawn to play each other in round one.

Also there could be a case made for the introduction of a “second cup” with 2 semi-finals and a final between the 4 counties that do not make it through to the last 4 for Sam playing off as a reward for their hard season. The second cup semis could be used as curtain raisers to the other semi-finals which ensure full houses.

AUGUST FINALS A POSITIVE STEP

Moving the All-Ireland finals to an August date has to be a good thing when it comes to club championship football. There will be at least a minimum extra of 3 weeks for counties to get their championships up and running, but will that happen is another issue. The GAA Calendar was always there to be tinkered with but the real “skeleton” in the GAA cupboard the “ailing” outdated Provincial championships can remain in a safe haven for the next 3 years .

The groupings in year one will be as follows:

Group 1 –Munster provincial winner, Connacht provincial winner, Ulster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4 of the qualifiers, Leinster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4.

Group 2 –Ulster provincial winner, Leinster provincial winner, Munster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4 for the qualifiers, Connacht runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4.

The groups in the succeeding years will be determined by Central Council. Each team will play one home match, one away match, and one match at Croke Park.

In the All-Ireland semi-finals, the Group 1 quarter-final winner will play the Group 2 quarter-final runner-up, and the Group 2 quarter-final winner will play the Group 1 quarter-final runner-up. The All-Ireland semi-finals will both be played over the one weekend.

Other congress news is that John Horan the Principal at St Vincent’s secondary school in Glasnevin and a member of Na Fianna club, Horan (right) has made a rapid rise through the GAA’s administrative ranks and now becomes the first Dublin-based president since Dr JJ Stuart held the honour in 1958-’61. A couple of motions regarding J1 sanctions were overwhelmingly passed- Motion 43. A sanction will not be granted after July 1st for players intending to play in the USGAA or Canadian Board areas.  Motion 44 also relates to playing sanctions abroad. An inter-county player may only have his J1 Sanction to play in the USA/Canada/Australasia/Europe approved after his county has been eliminated from the senior inter-county championship.

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