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Shake-up can help our stars flourish: Jarlath Burns

By Declan Bogue

Jarlath Burns, the chairman of the GAA Playing Rules Committee, has given Director-General Paraic Duffy's discussion paper his full backing, describing it as a "charter for clubs".

The discussion paper has examined the areas of player overtraining, burn-out and the annual panic over fixtures and offered 11 proposals that could make it to the floor in time for Congress 2016.

Among the proposals is playing extra-time at the end of drawn games, with replays only an option in the event of draws after the additional period. The All-Ireland Junior football and Intermediate hurling Championships would be discontinued, a calendar year fixtures schedule would be introduced and the National League semi-finals would be abolished.

Other proposals include the re-grading of minor age to Under-17 rather than Under-18 and for the Under-21 football Championship to wind up in 2018.

While some would see the idea of forgoing the gate receipts replays generate - a reported €9million was brought in from the hurling All-Ireland final replays from 2012-14 - as cutting your nose off to spite your face, there is no doubting the major effect it would have in creating weekends for club action.

Burns said: "When people criticise the GAA, while obviously the acquisition of money and funds is important, (they say) that the GAA has a wrong sense of balance as to where that should be.

"Now all of that has been firmly answered. They are proposing to get rid of semi-finals in the league, to get rid of replays and to get rid of other events. All of this is the GAA saying to the club player, 'yes, you are important. This is a demonstration that you are important'."

While the proposals will be met with inevitable criticism, Burns urges caution and for GAA units to debate the pros and cons of each of the 11 proposals.

"Clubs need to study it very carefully and realise that what is more than a traditional figure, with regard to what is an appropriate age for underage, they should focus more on the reality of how this is going to help their talented players," he said.

"Under-17 means you are not missing out on your education. Under-19 means you are not playing Sigerson football and county football in the one year.

"It's well thought out. It's not a solution, there is no solution. But it's a massive step forward."

While Burns himself is in the process of compiling findings for his own report into the Playing Rules, due later this year, he revealed the next step in the process.

"There is now going to be a period of reflection from counties. Then the Ard-Chomhairle will look at them and decide how many of these are going to go forward as motions," he explained.

"The re-grading will be met with opposition from counties who know they have a good team coming through. So it's all about people trying to maintain their own little patch.

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"What we all have to do now is take off our county hat, take off the hat of tradition and start looking at the strategic needs of the Association. In particular, the talented players aged 17 to 21, who we are all worried about."

And asked if footballers and hurlers spending more weekends in National League action spells the end of the dual-player, Burns replied: "There is a small body of players who will be put out by that, but it is going to create further fixture windows for clubs.

"You can look into them and ask, 'who is going to benefit from this?' And that is clubs."

LOUGHGIEL Shamrocks camogie manager Mickey McFadden snr was in no mood for making excuses after his side were outclassed by Athleague of Roscommon in the All-Ireland Junior club camogie semi-final.

Played at O'Connell Park, Cavan, the Shamrocks were simply unable to function in attack and Athleague ran out 2-8 to 0-5 winners.

McFadden said: "We are not blaming the elements at all. The breeze was with them in the first-half and changed in the second-half for them.

"But in saying that, we couldn't get out of the blocks. Our forwards just did not perform. They were just hungrier.

"They were a brave bit better of a team than we were. The way we were performing all year, we needed to step up to the mark and we couldn't."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that former Cork attacker Ger Manley is a front-runner for the vacant Antrim hurling manager's job.

All-Ireland club winning boss PJ O'Mullan has declared his interest, but the Antrim County Board will be hopeful of making an announcement in the coming week.

Clonoe tied up the senior county league in Tyrone yesterday, defeating Carrickmore on a scoreline of 1-11 to 1-5, Ryan T O'Neill grabbing their goal.

Belfast Telegraph


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