Category: Archive

GAA proposes radical overhaul of football

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

DUBLIN — The GAA has unveiled a controversial set of proposals that, if passed, would radically transform Gaelic football in Ireland. Under the new scheme, the National League would be scrapped as an independent competition and incorporated into a championship designed to guarantee every county at least 10 games.

The proposed competition, which is expect to meet with stern resistance, would encompass two regions, north and south. The north would comprise the top seven counties in Ulster and the top four in Connacht. The south, meanwhile, would be made of up of the top seven in Leinster and the top four in Munster.

All remaining counties, including New York, would be accommodated in a third group also providing a minimum of 10 games per county on the way to an All Ireland B championship. The winning team would then be promoted to the premier competition.

However, the competition doesn’t do away with the time-honored provincial semi-finals and finals. The four counties from Leinster and Munster who finish highest in their groups would qualify for their respective provincial semifinals.

The top three teams from both Munster and Connacht would qualify for the knockout stages in their provinces with the leading team going straight to the final and the next two contesting a semifinal.

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Devised by the GAA’s Football Development Committee, the reasoning behind the plan is to ensure that every county has a minimum of 10 games in a highly competitive structure. The games would be played in the March-June period while the provincial semifinals and finals, as well as the All Ireland semifinals and finals, would continue to be staged in the traditional July-September period.

Under the present system, teams have a series of National League games in the poor conditions of midwinter, and then after six intensive months of training, they could find themselves knocked out in the first round of the championship.

The proposals of the Football Development Committee, whose members include Colm O’Rourke, Eugene McGee, Martin Carney, Pat O’Neill, Noel Walsh and Art McRory, will have to be passed at the GAA’s annual congress next April. The early indications are that they could well be rejected.

Some successful county boards may not want to contemplate a reduction in the gate receipts they currently enjoy with a two-tier League and Championship system. Clubs may also feel they will be short-changed by being left idle during the March to June period.

Traditionalists might also balk at the possibility of Mayo beating Derry in a last group game to create the situation of a Connacht team eliminating an Ulster county from the Ulster championship. By the same token, Kerry might remove Dublin from the knockout stages of the Leinster championship.

There also is likely to be strong resistance from some counties who might see the new format as one which could effectively preclude them from competing in their own provincial championship.

On current standings, the North group would consist of Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, Armagh, Down, Derry, Tyrone, Donegal, Fermanagh, Cavan.

The South group would be Meath, Dublin, Laois, Offaly, Louth, Kildare, Westmeath, Cork, Kerry, Tipperary, Clare.

Meanwhile, the B championship group would consist of Monaghan, Wicklow, Leitrim, Wexford, Carlow, Longford, New York, Antrim, London, Limerick, Waterford.

Railway Cup

Reigning champions Leinster lost their Railway Cup hurling title when they were beaten 1-14 to 1-10 in last Sunday’s semifinal at Birr. Ollie Canning’s second-half goal was the decisive score for the all-Galway Connacht side.

In the other semifinal, Ulster put up a brave performance but lost out to Munster at Casement Park by 0-29 to 3-14. Concentrating on point scoring, Munster were far more accurate from out the field with Joe Deane hitting 0-8.

A sizable crowd of nearly 7,000 saw a last-minute point by Joe Kavanagh earn Nemo Rangers a replay in their Cork County football final against UCC. It finished 0-10 to 1-7 at Pairc Ui Chaoimh with Kavanagh equalizing with the last kick of the game.

Crossmaglen Rangers got the better of Pearse Og by 1-11 to 0-6 to win the Armagh title for the fourth year in a row, while St. Dominick’s took the Roscommon hurling title with a 1-11 to 0-9 victory over Oran.

Clubs violence

Several of last weekend’s club games were once again marred by violence. Derry champions Bellaghy had three players sent off as they lost in the Ulster football semifinal to Enniskillen Gaels at Clones. The elbow, the boot and the head butt were the order of the day as the Diamond brothers, Paul and Peter, as well as Cathal Scullion received their marching orders.

Toward the end of the Leinster football quarterfinal between Dublin’s Na Fianna and Rathnew of Wicklow a mass brawl broke out involving players and subs. However, referee Brian White made no bookings.

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