Belfast Telegraph

Oisin McConville calls on new GAA President Aoghán Ó Fearaill to split the GAA in two

By Oisin McConville

New GAA President Aoghán Ó Fearaill strikes me as go-ahead, business-like and conscientious.

He has held a series of offices within the Association including that of Ulster Council President and he is conversant with aspects of the organisation.

This being the case, he is fully aware that fixtures chaos still threatens the country’s biggest sporting body.

It’s invariably at this time of the year as the Championship season draws near that we become even more aware of what is a demanding fixtures itinerary at both club and county level.

No longer, I feel, can games in both sectors go hand in hand. I am utterly convinced after much reflection that the year should be divided up in such a way that inter-county fixtures would gain an even more significant share of the spotlight while club fixtures would be accommodated in the latter stages of the year.

Thus I would propose that the Allianz Leagues and inter-county championships should run from February until August with the remaining months of the year, or at least the greater portion of this period, set aside for club fare.

The various provincial football championships and the All-Ireland football qualifiers are major revenue streams for the GAA and they showcase the matches that the public really want to see.

I know that my suggestion will probably raise the hackles of club officials up and down the country but I honestly believe that unless the entire focus is switched onto the inter-county arena we are in danger of becoming submerged in fixtures chaos.

As things stand, county team managers rule the roost to a certain extent.

In many cases they decide if a full programme of fixtures should be staged in any given county on any given Sunday and this has resulted in various county championships being seriously diluted or put on hold until the latter part of the year.

All I am proposing is that the fixtures year is more markedly defined and that all clubs find themselves in the same boat come the autumn. This would see them go into action with their full quota of county players, thus enhancing their chances of success in their domestic competitions.

I believe it is very unfair that young, talented players should not be given the opportunity to serve their clubs as well as they would like and while I feel it would not be a simple matter to divide up the year in the manner in which I have recommended, nevertheless something of this nature requires to be done if the fixtures crux is to be adequately addressed.

I admire Aoghán Ó Fearaill’s (left) rhetoric and his thinking. He undoubtedly has a grasp on how things operate at grassroots level even though he is accustomed to striding the corridors of power.

Because of this, I feel he is particularly well-placed to provide the initiative for the year to be split between county and club football.

Things simply cannot be allowed to continue to go on the way they are going. It is detrimental to the fabric of the Association and places considerable pressure on the fixture-makers.

Last Sunday we had two semi-finals in the Allianz Football League but I don’t think there was any necessity for these games. I believe the final should be contested between the top two finishers in Division One — to me that would make sense.

I also think the All-Ireland qualifiers could be played within a more limited time span and the All-Ireland final could be staged before August is out.

I know there are arguments against this but I really cannot see the merit in them.

I would appeal to the new President to give a lead in terms of giving the inter-county programme an allotted slice of the year while also accommodating the club programme in the latter stages of the annual calendar.

In this way, I think all parties would be better served.

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