Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Players set for sting in GAA fixtures tale

Taking a stand: CPA Chairman Micheal Briody addresses a press conference yesterday
Taking a stand: CPA Chairman Micheal Briody addresses a press conference yesterday
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

If one of the functions of the media is to facilitate debate, then an email sent out within a bumper document delivered by the Club Players' Association (CPA) at the Pendulum Suite of the Carlton Hotel in Blachardstown on Tuesday morning was simply jaw-dropping.

In announcing that the CPA were withdrawing from the Fixtures Review Committee as they couldn't stand over the latest proposals, they included some correspondence that clearly magnified their annoyance and frustration that they could not get their side across.

Sent from Croke Park's Operations manager Teresa Rehill in late September, it centred on a proposed debate on the proposed Tier Two football competition that Central Council were determined would go through Special Congress in mid-October.

RTE were keen to hear from Michael Briody of the CPA and former Dublin footballer Paul Flynn of the Gaelic Player's Association. They also wanted the GAA's point of view.

Rehill sent the email to Briody and Flynn outlining that the director-general Tom Ryan and president John Horan had decided not to participate.

It went on to state: "It is felt that discussion on the proposal in the public airwaves at this time may not impact positively on workings of the Fixtures Review Committee.

"I trust you will understand the GAA's position."

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Think about that for a second. The demands of trying to fashion a workable fixtures programme is something that impacts on every single player of Gaelic Games, at all levels, underage, college, schools, club and inter-county.

Yeah, it might feel like Groundhog Day at times and most people's eyes tend to glaze over with the multiple proposals that are put forward, but it directly impacts on everyone.

It might have been an idea to elevate it to the status of a national conversation and get people energised by the various thoughts. Instead, the GAA effectively shut down the debate. Flynn and Briody were, as you might imagine, less than impressed with this.

"What's wrong with debate?" asked former Wexford hurling manager Liam Griffin, seated at the top table of the press conference.

"I am in business and we have many debates. It is healthy," he added.

The CPA was launched almost three years ago at the grounds of Ballyboden GAA. There was a mixture of scepticism but also huge support. No doubt, they are a pressure group and history shows that the GAA hierarchy can be hit and miss with how they approach such bodies.

It is known that the GAA hierarchy despise the accusations of elitism held against them. Often, a wide-ranging swipe at the leadership can be the answer to any columnist stuck for something to fill the pages and they will point to their own record of volunteerism within their own clubs and communities to display how they are not 'out of touch'.

By now, they have established certain ways to neuter troublesome developments. They brought the GPA inside with the promise of grants. While they might have a nibble on the bottom of the GAA from time to time, they have lost the trump card of being able to threaten strike action.

The CPA were granted a seat around the table of the Fixtures Review Task Force. What they found was what they feel was a calculated effort to appear to take them inside the tent and subsume them, all the while using it as a 'Trojan Horse' to drive through the Tier Two competition that is seen as a pet project of President John Horan.

Tonight, the last meeting of the Task Force takes place. It will surely be distracted by events in Blachardstown. On Friday night, their proposals for a calendar will be received by GAA Management Committee, and presumably - but not certainly - rubber-stamped at Saturday's meeting of Central Council.

The CPA's two proposals have been ignored.

"While not perfect, we believe these two plans are superior to any currently being advocated by the Taskforce," reads their statement.

"We hoped at least one would be adopted into the final report but when we asked for a vote on November 6 to measure support, we were refused. (This submission will be made available). This is not a matter of sour grapes but illustrates in our view a reluctance to take on board differing views."

That will sting. The response is eagerly awaited.

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