Duffy's retirement marks the end of an era for GAA: Hasson
Ulster Council president Michael Hasson believes that Paraic Duffy's decision to stand down from the office of Director General at the end of March will rob the GAA of one of its most dynamic personalities.
For the past 10 years, Duffy has been at the nerve centre of an organisation that has made impressive strides both on and off the field, not only on this island but in many countries throughout the world.
Hasson, who has held various offices within the Association down through the decades, attributes much of the progress which has been made to Duffy's efficiency, professionalism and integrity.
"I think that his decision to step down from his post has wrong-footed many of us," admitted Rasharkin man Hasson. "I thought he might have remained for maybe another three years and continued the excellent work he has been undertaking, but he has made his decision and his retirement will mark the end of an era."
Monaghan native Duffy, whose family was steeped in the GAA, has led the island's biggest sporting body with considerable zest and commitment, and Hasson is of the opinion that he will leave "an admirable legacy".
"I have got to know him quite well over recent years in particular and I have to say that he has guided the Association firmly and fairly," stated Hasson. "He has always had the best interests of the GAA at heart and was never afraid to address issues, even those that were controversial. He also helped to forge links with other sporting bodies and thus gained considerable respect and admiration for our Association.
"There is no doubt that through his endeavours he will certainly leave an admirable legacy when he takes his leave."
Of late, Duffy has been playing a key role in striving to formulate a fixtures strategy that might prove acceptable to the Gaelic Players' Association and the Club Players' Association and, if some of the proposals have been deemed a bridge too far, the fact that the All-Ireland football quarter-finals will for the next three years be staged on an eight-team round robin basis and that the All-Ireland final will be brought forward owes much to Duffy's foresight.
The proposals may have been sealed with his approval, but Duffy has left the door open for further Championship tweaking down the line if a better model should come to the fore.
"I think this encapsulates one of Paraic's great strengths," stated Hasson (right). "He is always prepared to take on board an alternative view and to broaden any discussion, especially one that deals with a major issue. I think it's the actual manner in which he does things which sees his views gain respect - he always gives everyone their place."
Just recently he hailed the Ulster Championship as a truly competitive series and pointed out how it outweighed the flagship football competitions in the other provinces.
"Ulster boasts a great football Championship where any one of several teams can come out on top in any given year," declared Duffy.
"Then you look at Leinster where Dublin have won 11 of the last 12 finals and Munster where Cork and Kerry have shared the last 80 between them, while Mayo have definitely been the dominant force in Connacht in recent years.
"In the All-Ireland football qualifiers, attendances have been on the decline, and there is a clear appetite for more competitive matches at the quarter-finals stage of the All-Ireland series. I think we have addressed this issue with the format which has now been adopted - people want to see more competitive matches on a regular basis."
Already there is considerable speculation as to just who might succeed him, with some of the current provincial secretaries, a few of the full-time county secretaries and perhaps candidates from the commercial and industrial spheres likely to be in the running.
Hasson added: "It is one of the top posts on the island and carries huge responsibility.
"Paraic said yesterday that he feels privileged to have had the opportunity to serve as Director General for the past 10 years and the GAA is equally privileged to have had him in his high-office role. It is worth noting that he plans to be working on a number of projects with GAA president Aogán Ó Feárghail and president-elect John Horan over the coming months.
"He is certainly not just going to bide his time quietly to the end of March by the sound of things and the GAA certainly stands to benefit from this."