The GAA is like a greenhouse with a load of different plants which have been allowed to grow around each other

The GAA is like a greenhouse with a load of different plants which have been allowed to grow around each other
Cork fans at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this summer. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IT'S rather strange that the first steps to what could be one of the biggest changes to the All-Ireland football championship passed largely under the radar over the weekend.

While it’s hard to see Cork dropping into the ‘second’ stratum of county teams, it would represent quite the move to split the current championship. 

However, going by the sports section of the RTÉ website on Sunday morning, the opening gambit towards a tiered system wasn’t all that big a development.

Obviously, Mick McCarthy’s impending re-appointment as Republic of Ireland manager was the main event and it was understandable too that that day’s GAA action should be given prominence. 

The rest of the top five stories featured two surrounding a second-string Irish rugby team’s win over the US and Sam Bennett being honoured at the Irish Cycling Awards.

Even under the GAA heading, the idea of tiering was only given third fiddle.

It is only very much in the genesis stage, as revealed in the official communication sent out by the GAA after Saturday’s Central Council meeting: “There was broad support for the introduction of a second-tier football championship and it was agreed to discuss possible formats at the January meeting of Ard Chomhairle to allow a motion to proceed to Congress in February.”

We’ll have to assume that this broad support is based on feedback from counties rather than just gut feelings that it will work.

One would have to wonder though, is there enough time to formulate something in such a short window and, if a change were to be passed by Congress, would it be implemented for the 2019 championship or the 2020 one?

There are quite a few questions here, such as whether Central Council will come up with a single motion, with the choice between a new format or keeping the status quo, or will it be like the changes to the hurling championship, where delegates had a number of different options to choose from? In addition, what effects will the extra games have on the already squeezed club scene. We hope we’re wrong but it all seems like a bit of a rush job.

Saturday’s Central Council meeting also discussed the proposed experimental rule changes to Gaelic football and opted to introduce the limit of three consecutive handpasses, the sin bin, ‘attacking mark’ and the stipulation that sideline kicks go forward.

While there will be extra pressure on referees, these experiments deserve to be trialled. What is odd, though, is that, regardless of the success of the proposals, things will revert to the ‘old’ rules for championship, with no permanent changes taking place until 2020.

However, a Roscommon motion with regard to a ‘blank canvas’ approach to fixture-making was defeated.

The GAA President, John Horan, invited them to submit their own proposals with regard to fixture making for consideration. 

The GAA will conduct its own review of fixtures starting early next summer and a representative of the CPA will be invited to take part in the process.

What is so wrong with a blank-canvas approach? Right now, the GAA is like a greenhouse with a load of different plants which have been allowed to grow around each other, so much so that they can’t be untangled. When that happens, you have no option but to start again and use braces to keep them apart.

Making only small changes here and there may have slight positive effects but can just as easily have intended consequences elsewhere. 

It’s only by taking everything into account at once that there can be a system that works for all.

Also this week, a word for Briege Corkery, who captained the Munster ladies to victory in the interprovincial football championship. 

Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

This is a woman who gave birth earlier in the year and her idea of easing herself back into action was to play in goal for St Val’s before rejoining the Cork senior camogie squad and claiming yet another All-Ireland medal.

Was the interpros her football swansong or an indication that she may be part of Ephie Fitzgerald’s set-up next year? 

Time will tell, but she certainly won’t be headed for the quiet life.

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