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03rd May 2017

Club and intercounty players are at odds over the structure of All-Ireland football championship

A CPA survey threw up some interesting results

Niall McIntyre

The Club Players Association’s most recent survey, conducted over the May Bank Holiday weekend, has shown that the majority of club players (71%) would prefer a tiered inter-county football championship ahead of the current format.

This result comes as a slight surprise on the back of the GPA’s staunch opposition to the proposals of a B Championship format last year.

GPA secretary Paul Flynn called on delegates to vote against such proposals at Congress last year.

“We have spent over a year discussing new structures and changes with our football members and there remains serious opposition to the introduction of a second tier in the football championship.

“The squads directly affected if change is introduced have also voted recently not to participate in the new format. We would urge Congress delegates to back the players here and oppose the motions advocating a second tier in the senior football championship.”

However, it is clear that the opinions of our club players are in conflict with those of GPA members. The proposal of a secondary football championship is one of the CPA’s underlying principles and this recent survey serves to underline the common ground held by the organisation and its members on this matter.

Though it’s not clear whether this result is an indication of a change in the attitudes of our inter-county players on a tiered football championship since Congress last year, it certainly highlights the fact that it is an option that must be explored to a greater extent.

After all, this motion was heavily discouraged by the likes of Flynn and current GPA chief executive Dermot Earley and this would have been a huge reason behind the lack of support behind it.

It is necessary that the opinions of all stakeholders in this matter are gathered and assessed. Former GAA president Sean Kelly has voiced his support for its introduction.

“I do think that we should have two tiers in the championship…I’d run the championship the same way they’re proposing (Super-8), but I’d also have a second-tier competition — post the provincial championships — that would really give an incentive to the weaker counties.

“The majority of those counties are never going to win an All-Ireland. In fact, they’re falling further behind and that’s only going to continue. Unless we move to two tiers, then, to a large extent, we’re only catering for the elite and we’re helping to widen the gap,” said the Kerryman.

Kelly is certainly not the only one who is tired of seeing the one-sided encounters that are becoming all too common in modern day football.

“I’m sick to death now of seeing teams being hammered down into the ground, whether that’s by Kerry, Dublin, Mayo, or whoever. A lot of these games are over after 10 minutes. What’s the point? I can’t understand why teams keep coming back for more.”

Around 3,700 club players took part in this survey over the weekend and 86% of these participants claimed dissatisfaction with the running of club fixtures in their respective counties.

This indicates the need for reform in the club scene and supports the CPA’s latest statement calling for a special autumn congress on this matter.

“It would be inconceivable at this stage not to include the club fixtures issue in a Special Congress and have it achieve official status under rule thereby underlining the special status of clubs and their players in the GAA.”

This statement also revealed progress with the GAA,the Association agreeing to work in conjunction with the CPA to solve such problems.

“Following the GAA’s recent announcement of fixture analysis of all counties, with a total of seven counties having been reviewed in two years, we are happy to engage with them to expedite a solution to the fixtures problem.”

Other results of note arising from this survey include that 74% of members want the All Ireland club finals pre Xmas and 56% want the provincial championships scrapped.

CPA and GAA officials are meeting in Croke Park today and hopefully more progress will be made on the solving of the problems of the GAA currently.

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