Sunday 22 September 2019

It's now all about inter-county scene like never before

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

It has certainly been a period of reform on the G.A.A. front at national level, but what has been lacking in Wexford has been a debate on the various hurling and football proposals brought in and sanctioned which clearly affects the county going forward.

The G.P.A. agreement with the G.A.A. at national level is clearly orientated towards the inter-county scene. The big winners in the G.P.A./G.A.A. debate are clearly the inter-county players, as those players involved solely at club level never received a mention.

This now clearly illustrates that the G.P.A. is elitist, and once and for all it can be considered an association that is only serving the concerns of the inter-county player. They can now be titled the inter-county G.P.A. as they started as an inter-county unit serving inter-county players, and they have not moved on.

The staggering contribution of the G.A.A. of €7.5 million towards the G.P.A. under various headings has left many counties shocked, coming at a time when so many are struggling with their finances, being unable to cope with the demands of inter-county set-ups.

Players' expenses have been increased, and the only consolation for counties is that this is being serviced by the G.A.A., but no doubt this will only cover training within the designated periods set by Croke Park. As we are well aware, the majority of inter-county players begin preparations outside those deadlines which will create a further headache for counties as to who will cover the expenses over this period.

The proposed restructuring of the football championship sees a re-package that will solely favour the stronger counties as, with the odd exception, it's those counties that will qualify for the new proposed All-Ireland round-robin series.

This is clearly designed to give higher quality games at this stage of the championship, making for more lucrative T.V. marketing, more gate receipts and more games, which will in itself affect the club scene, particularly through the months of July and August.

For the weaker counties they will have the qualifiers, and the extra game or two, but realistically they will stand little chance of making it through to the lucrative All-Ireland quarter-final stages. Television companies will be the G.A.A's new media partners when the deal begins in 2017 as they will have the big winners in the likes of Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone, Cork, Galway and Donegal.

Under this new system their dominance of Gaelic football will be complete, while the provincial system is maintained with little hope given to the weaker counties, particularly in Leinster, where Dublin's dominance is set to continue, with the championship having little spectator appeal in the province.

The big counties are the clear winners, particularly with the proposal to have eight counties play a round robin series to determined the All-Ireland semi-finalists, with no quarter-final. It will leave the weaker counties with little chance of a breakthrough, such as Tipperary and Clare this year.

The G.A.A. has said it is responding to nationwide feedback on championship reform. Still, one has heard of little debate at county level, so it will be interesting to see how Wexford respond at their September meeting.

Now we move on to the role of the new National Hurling Development Officer, Martin Fogarty. The G.A.A. announced the former Kilkenny All-Ireland winning selector as the new man in this role, but he will carry particular responsibility in overseeing the development of the game in Laois, Offaly, Antrim, Westmeath and Carlow.

On top of that, among the recommendations of the 2020 committee which appointed him are a review of county games programmes for club players, devisiing other activities and initiatives with the aim of maximising participation across all levels, and consideration of the restoration of a mentoring programme in designated counties.

Wexford last won an All-Ireland Senior hurling title in 1996 while the last All-Ireland Minor win was in 1968, but they are deemed to be outside this remit, like many more struggling counties. It seems Wexford must continue their struggle on their own.

On a refereeing note this week I will confine myself to the All-Ireland semi-finals in Croke Park. Justin Heffernan handled the Limerick v. Dublin Minor semi-final excellently, while James Owens gave a master class in his officiating of the thrilling Kilkenny v. Waterford Senior tie. Both men in black can feel proud. It will be back to the local scene next week.

Wexford People

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