Saturday 21 September 2019

Football proposals highlight all that is bad about G.A.A.

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

On the Line with Alan Aherne

The latest proposals emanating from Croke Park to alter the structure of the All-Ireland Senior football championship are nothing but a complete fudge, not to mention further confirmation that the accumulation of money and the deliverance of elitist ideals are now all that matters to the powers that be.

In fact, coming in tandem with the recent additional funding provided to the GPA, it means that officials in headquarters are no longer even bothering to camouflage the reality that they perceive the inter-county game among the top counties as being the be all and end all.

Of course, members will be fed the usual guff about all the money channelled back down to the grassroots for the good of the games at the lowest levels.

However, has anyone stopped to reflect on the ever-growing number of people in every single county now employed full-time by the G.A.A.?

Wouldn't it be interesting to be given a complete rundown of their salaries? I imagine that exercise would throw up a store of eye-openers, but of course it will never happen so I won't hold my breath.

Back to my original point though, on the proposed All-Ireland football reform. Clearly the central authorities realise that there is a clamour among the majority of members at this stage for the introduction of a Champions League-style format.

It must sicken many of them to hear that borrowed from soccer to outline the fairest and most spectator-appealing way forward for football.

They are hamstrung though by the absolute necessity among officialdom to hold on to the outdated provincial structure. There's a simple reason for that: without Leinster, Ulster, Munster and Connacht having their say, the power of so many people would be diluted and ultimately eroded.

Therefore, in order to satisfy everybody, or so they thought, the bright sparks at the top of the association have proposed to bring in a round-robin phase at the quarter-final stage.

I can see what they were thinking: if we get this passed, we'll protect the provinces and we'll also give the rest of them their Champions League format, sure that will shut them up.

And of course, let's not forget that having more games among the last eight would result in vast quantities of extra cash, both from the paying customers at the gates and the huge additional deals to be negotiated with the TV stations as a result.

It was an absolute insult for these proposals to be unveiled at a time when Tipperary are preparing for an All-Ireland semi-final after a fairytale run to the last four.

They beat a provincial champion in a one-off last eight tie and are there against Mayo next Sunday entirely on merit. However, ask yourself the following question: if Tipp. were in a group of four, would they be likely to finish in the top two and advance?

Would they beat two heavy-hitters or would the element of surprise be long gone if they caused a shock in their first game?

Think back to our own memorable experience in 2008, or that of Fermanagh four years earlier. Again, the same principle applies.

We had a magical result against Armagh during that special campaign to make it to a last four clash with Tyrone, but we got there because we surprised a big gun in a straight knockout game.

It's sad to think that the top officials in Croke Park would even propose a system to make the strong get even stronger in football, but that is the reality of the situation.

It should be rejected with the contempt it so clearly deserves by at least 20 of the counties who in reality won't have a hope in hell of ever contesting an All-Ireland quarter-final if it is implemented.

All of us enjoy sitting back, unfortunately as neutrals more often than not, at this time of year and watching the big guns go toe-to-toe.

However, at least we have managed to experience what Tipperary are looking forward to next Sunday, and any attempts to make it harder for the less successful counties to do so highlight the ever-increasing chasm between the power brokers in Croke Park and the grassroots G.A.A. people. It's a sad state of affairs, and it will get worse before it gets better with the current regime at the helm.

Wexford People

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