Boards to tighten up or face a cash crisis, says Delaney
Michael Delaney has really stirred it. Not for the first time in his long career as Leinster's chief administrator he has called it as he sees it in the starkest possible terms.
Comparing a man from Camross to Margaret Thatcher might be regarded as about the biggest insult one could reasonably hope to get away without drawing serious retribution, but, in fairness, there were certain similarities with the ‘Iron Lady' in the unequivocal tone of Delaney's ‘Out, Out, Out' declarations this week.
Delaney was in no mood for sugar-coating pills which he believes should be swallowed whole and often until they have the desired effect in clearing out the toxins accumulated over the last decade.
His two essential claims are that the GAA is facing a revolution among club players unless it provides a more even games programme and that county boards are facing financial ruin unless spending is brought under control.
Gate receipts held up well last year and while Dublin were able to secure a lucrative sponsorship deal with Vodafone, other counties have found it much more difficult to find new backers or to retain existing ones.
“It's more difficult to find sponsors and, even then, they're paying less than before. Race days and golf classics were always great fund-raisers, but they're being hit too,” said Delaney.
He has no doubts that unless they bring costs under control, many counties are heading for insolvency. As for the principal source of the problem, he is adamant that much of it is due to the number and structure of inter-county competitions.
He also attributes the unrest among action-starved club players to the inter-county scene which, when combined with training, has a voracious appetite for precious playing time.
Hence his proposal that the All-Ireland junior football and intermediate hurling championships be dropped; that all so-called special competitions be abandoned and, most controversially of all, that the football qualifiers be scrapped altogether. He also wants major changes in hurling, suggesting that only the Leinster and Munster finalists be allowed into the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Basically, Delaney is promoting a return to old values where the provincial championships were the only way of qualifying for the All-Ireland series. He argues that as well as restoring the integrity of the provincials, the shorter campaigns would leave much more time for club action.
Specifically, he wants the provincial and All-Ireland hurling and football championships played off in June, July and August, with the club scene taking over from September. He also wants May clear for club action.
Meanwhile, Club Tyrone may consider investing in a snow-plough after blizzards on the USA’s eastern seaboard caused the cancellation of its planned weekend fund-raising trip to Philadelphia and New York.
Events had been organised in both cities to gather support for Tyrone GAA’s Garvaghey project, now labelled as “levelling the rough field”, a play on the meaning of the Garvaghey town-land name.