Winds of change blowing at GAA HQ?

I have been a very interested observer of the debate on the future of fixtures in the GAA. It would appear that now there is an appetite to actually do something about the situation which has existed particularly in the past 15 years and which has seen club players almost totally ignored, while elite players in the 18 to 21 year bracket are ‘flogged to death’, playing for and training with several different teams.

  The discussion paper which was published this week and written by Pádraig Duffy contains many good suggestions but there are a number with which I would disagree.

  Here are the suggestions he made – and my own take on them…

1: Re-grade minor from U-18 to U-17

I would agree with that suggestion. The Leaving Cert is too important for every student now and it makes sense to allow players to concentrate on doing that exam without having to play inter-county football.

2: Play new minor (U-17 competition) alongside the senior competitions as was the case before

I would agree with that. In fact it would be easier to play off the provincial championships as there would not be a crossover with the Leaving Cert.

3: Discontinue the U-21 Football Championship

I would totally disagree with this proposal. If we changed minor to U-17 then there would be a huge gap between U-17 and senior and there would be many players lost to other sports. The U-21 football championship has been a huge success in recent years and it has been played off quickly and has been of a very high standard.

4: Complete the All-Ireland U-21 hurling championship before the All-Ireland SHC Final

Why abolish the U-21 football championship and not the U-21 hurling championship too? That doesn’t make sense to me at all.

5: Increase the number of two-code weekends in the National Leagues

If it meant that the competitions were completed quicker then I would agree with that.

6: Discontinue the NFL Division 1 semi-finals

This is a no-brainer. Why have a league with knockout semi-finals? There should never have been semi-finals in the first place.

7: Any players on a county panel who are not in the match-day 26 should be allowed back to their clubs to play league games when there are national league games and championship games

Probably the best suggestion of the lot. There are fringe players on county panels who are training away all year but hardly ever get a game. They should be able to play with their clubs. This makes a whole lot of sense.

8: Bring the All-Ireland hurling and football final forward by two weeks

I would agree with that for sure. It should be possible to run off the championship a bit quicker if extra-time was played in all drawn games. However it would mean that the hype of the championship would be over in August, which is very early in the year.

9: Play extra-time in all championship games

I am surprised that Pádraig Duffy came up with this suggestion. It is a great idea but it would cost the GAA a fortune. Just think of the drawn All-Ireland hurling finals in recent years and the Dublin v Mayo football game this year. I doubt that this will get through. For financial reasons mainly.

10: Discontinue All-Ireland inter-county Junior and Intermediate hurling championships

I don’t have a view on this suggestion as Roscommon don’t play in either.

11: Introduce a calendar year schedule

This would mean that the All-Ireland club championships would be completed before December which probably makes sense. But it would be dependent on a lot of other things happening. I would favour that the early season tournaments like the FBD League, the O’Byrne Cup, the McGrath Cup and the McKenna Cup be scrapped, and despite the many calls that we hear every year, it is time to dispense with the Railway Cup as well.