OPINION: The GAA's new proposals will do nothing to solve the club fixture crisis
Band aids don't fix bullet holes and the latest plaster that the GAA thinks will fix its current fixture ills will never stick.
Paraic Duffy has feasibly spent weeks and months tying together all the various GAA reports compiled over the last decade to deal with the major issue of the GAA in 2015: fixture chaos at club and intercounty level.
In the latest missive to emerge from Croke Park, Player Overtraining and Burnout, and the GAA Fixtures Calendar, some may have hopedDuffy would provide the panacea that has eluded many of the best GAA minds in the country.
Instead, the document proposes that by abolishing the Under-21 football championship, but not its hurling counterpart, and making a two-week change to the senior All-Ireland calendar, the association can plough on into the future with everyone happy.
"If we care about the welfare of our players, as we claim to do, and if we want to provide our club players with a fair and meaningful schedule of fixtures, as we claim we wish to do, then we can no longer simply talk about addressing these issues. The time has come to take decisive action."
Unfortunately today once again shows how disconnected Croke Park and the administrators have become from the frustrations of the ordinary GAA club player. Club players are given nothing to work with in this report.
— Jamie Wall (@Jamwall7) November 3, 2015
The biggest issue any GAA fan, and club player, has with the championship in its current format is how bloated the provincial series can be. It is these championships, in peak summer, at the optimum time to run off local club championships, that cause the most problems.
This year the Connacht championship started on May 3rd as Galway beat New York.
Yet for a championship with only seven participants, it didn't conclude until the 19th of July. That's 77 days, but the GAA think moving the minor grade to U17 and ending a football competition that has produced some wonderful contests and is at least a staging post for players to acclimatise to senior football should be abandoned.
Duffy's intentions are good but surely if you are looking at any calendar, then you begin with the opening months. There is no mention of getting rid of the January competitions that provide much needed cash in the early part of the year, but are under-supported, under-promoted and generally treated as the pre-season events that they are.
Surely getting rid of the McGrath Cup and its various counterparts would allow the National Leagues to start earlier and therefore do away with Duffy's proposal to run football and hurling simultaneously, thereby killing off any hope of dual players surviving at inter-county level.
Another proposal to move the All-Ireland finals forward by two weeks is a cosmetic exercise and could well be undone by replays.
Duffy concedes that he is reluctant to shift around the dates of the GAA's showpieces, but surely the problems don't lie in August or September, but in the months preceding it.
In the debate that will follow it would be interesting to hear what parents or teachers would have to say about about a change to the minor grade from U18 to U17? How does this affect a 15-year-old who's promoted to a county set up but may be preparing for his Junior Cert?
Is the minor grade such a burden on Leaving Cert students that one of the most popular competitions in the Association needs to be altered so drastically?
Burnout is not always from playing games week after week. Too often players develop injuries as they get older from overloading their bodies as they are developing as teenagers.
GAA trying stop player burnout is half hearted effort, Waterford SFC Final on FRI night and winners playing Nemo in Munster Club on SAT !
— Graham Whelton (@DepecheMoby) November 3, 2015
Ultimately the GAA's power comes from county boards. They are the men and women who will vote on these proposals at Congress next year and will decide if they get the all important two-thirds majority. And it is here that the true issue of club chaos lies
GAA county boards should be seen as mini fiefdoms.
Sky's intro graphic was inspired by Game Of Thrones and anyone who's ever attended a county board meeting knows of the power struggles, and the bloody coups that can sometimes be seen on the first Monday or Tuesday of the month in hotel conference rooms across the country.
Moving the club calendar to within a single year seems a workable plan on paper at least but it will need co-operation from every single county board, and it will put pressure on the smaller units to get their own houses in order.
This is where the GAA's attention needs to be focused, not on abolishing competitions that cause little or no disruption as it is.
How likely is that to happen in counties that will only play key games at weekends and don't have facilities to play championship games midweek? In counties where the inter-county managers wield huge power?
With a 12-month club calendar the GAA now has a large hole to fill on March 17th which they feel should be filled by the inter-provincial competition.
We're sure that Martin Donnelly would love that, but for a competition that has struggled to gain any traction even since its revamp it seems somewhat odd that the GAA are looking to abolish the U21 football grade as well as the junior football and intermediate hurling competitions, but will persevere with a competition that has very much run its course.
The GAA, and its most powerful figure, have missed a golden opportunity to try and influence real change. For club players, the frustration will continue, regardless of any changes to the U21 grade.
Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin gives brutally honest take on how to play Dublin on The GAA Hour. Marc Ó Sé discusses who will replace Diarmuid Connolly. Listen below or subscribe here on iTunes.
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