It is not often that I would be prepared to take issue with GAA director general Paraic Duffy. He is a most capable administrator, a visionary thinker who is playing a major role in driving the Association forward in difficult times.
But, while I have the height of admiration for the Monaghan man, I cannot agree with him that the 2012 fixtures calendar would be thrown into chaos if replays were to apply for all championship matches that might end in draws.
A motion passed at Congress last April in Mullingar means that, as things stand, there will be no extra-time played in any senior championship match that ends in a draw next year.
However, Central Council hopes to reverse this decision when it meets on November 12 by bringing a motion to next year’s Congress which, of course, will take place prior to the Championship season.
For the past three years, extra time has been used to determine the outcome of all games that finish level at the end of normal time except provincial semi-finals and finals and All Ireland semi-finals and finals.
Duffy maintains that the adoption of the motion copper-fastening the staging of replays is not altogether feasible and insists that if they are to take place, particularly in qualifier games, then chaos would ensue.
But I for one do not hold with this. I am of the firm belief that when a game ends all-square both sets of fans are, by and large, relieved that their teams are to benefit from another bite at the cherry.
I am well aware that replays can clutter up fixture lists and can present their own logistical problems but these are definitely not insurmountable.
When the overall championship picture is examined, there are not that many replays altogether but, with proper planning, replays can be staged without discommoding the rest of the fixtures.
The GAA has often been accused in the past of ‘orchestrating’ replays so that extra revenue can be generated.
Whether that is true or not is a moot point but what is a solid fact is that teams normally relish the chance to pit their skills against each other for a second time after a draw.
I am aware that in some cases extra time provided us with wonderful memories of the 2011 championship, most notably Donegal’s dramatic victory over Kildare when they scored four unanswered points to overturn what had been a seemingly unassailable three-point lead enjoyed by their opponents.
Not too many games end |in such dramatic fashion — indeed, we had a surfeit of one-sided games both in the provincial championships and in the All Ireland Qualifiers.
I see no reason too why replays could not be staged at neutral venues to accommodate fans. I know the side that has travelled for the drawn game will argue the toss on this one but a neutral venue would surely be a fair arrangement to accommodate both sets of fans.
Replays would give teams who have players injured, suspended or unavailable the opportunity to perhaps become available again and it would also offer the opportunity for managers to adopt different tactics if necessary.
The fact that a player who is yellow-carded during a game can come back on for extra time has been something of a bone of contention — a replay would eliminate this situation.
There is also the suggestion that the staging of replays could have an impact on club activity and while this is possible, again it is a nettle that can be grasped. With a little co-operation and better spirit of understanding – something that is not always prevalent within the GAA – this issue could be addressed.
There is even the possibility that replays could be staged on Friday nights if such matches involved counties which might be in close proximity to each other.
It is time for the GAA to think outside the box — I believe that Friday night fixtures will eventually become par for the course and I am of the opinion that fans would welcome this.
Dublin for instance are very keen on Friday night games while some other counties are known to share this view.
A survey of the championship season which ended with Dublin winning the Sam Maguire Cup last month will show that there were some weekends on which there was a proliferation of fixtures while on others there was very little fare on offer.
Indeed, the Donegal v Antrim Ulster championship tie was staged in splendid isolation last May with the result that a woeful contest received unprecedented national publicity!
I feel that a better balance could be struck overall and that this would allow followers to see even more games rather than just those in which their own counties are engaged.
The deliberations of Central Council at their meeting on November 12 will be awaited with interest.
We shall see then if the motion which was passed at this year’s Congress will eventually be overturned.