There's a fixture crisis in the GAA. Club players have finally had enough and formed a union. No longer can we go on with an uncertain fixture list and summers being wasted away training before cramming a full season into late autumn while there's still grass on the pitch. Something has to change.
We have been promised much-needed reform of 'championship fixtures' over the last 18 months, but what if the so-called solution only makes matters worse? That would truly be a GAA solution to a GAA problem. Well, Paraic Duffy and the GAA top brass are on the case, not to mention the esteemed delegates who comprise GAA Congress, charged with keeping the brass in check. This weekend, the Super 8 Gaelic Football series will be voted upon amid a backdrop of growing dissent from intercounty players.
The divide between the people who make the GAA great - the players - and the people who generate money from that greatness - the administrators - has never been more pronounced and the Super 8 motion represents a new low in relations.
What if this idea actually exacerbates the problem for club players and completely sidelines the sport of hurling in one fell swoop? What of it? The GAA seem determined to get this championship change through.
Under football Championship change proposals, there will be 19 football Champ games in July/August, five hurling. Bye, bye hurling.
— Kieran Cunningham (@KCsixtyseven) February 22, 2017
The Irish Examiner's John Fogarty, whose column spoke out against the motion today suggests that the two thirds Congress majority needed for the rule change is a real possibility.
Looks like five in Ulster, all of Connacht, Kerry, Waterford, Limerick and several in Leinster.
— John Fogarty (@JohnFogartyIrl) February 22, 2017
From what we know so far, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Tipperary will all vote in favour of it, while Cork will rebel and vote against. For Kerry and Mayo, voting selfishly is understandable. Less so for Meath and Tipperary.
Meath also voting in favour of Super 8, what their senior football manager has described as "a money racket". #GAA
— John Fogarty (@JohnFogartyIrl) February 22, 2017
Appears Tipperary have ignored the concerns of their football board, senior players & management & will back "Super 8" championship #GAA
— John Fogarty (@JohnFogartyIrl) February 21, 2017
Tipperary backing the motion is particularly bewildering. They are the All-Ireland hurling champions, and are set to vote for a proposal that will massively diminish hurling's place in the GAA, while also going against the wishes of their brilliant footballers who have made such strides in recent years. What is the thinking behind this? It really doesn't make any sense.
As more county boards meet to decide on their vote at this weekend's Congress, it's easy to foresee this trend continuing. If the turkeys continue to vote for Christmas, the motion will pass. The long arm of Croke Park appears more than able to reach into remote county board offices across the country.
And where does this leave the club players? Out in the cold. Their chairman Micheál Briody released a hard-hitting statement this morning.
Once again we ask, why can these proposals that have been promoted so aggressively and single-mindedly by the GAA not be parked, so that we can get the right solution in place for our players?
We wrote to the President as required under rule 3.35 to formally request the right to speak at Congress on behalf of over 20,000 members. He has replied denying us the opportunity to speak stating it would be inappropriate.
The Uachtarán in doing this has ignored the will of more than 20,000 CPA players. This was not unexpected, it is disappointing, but it doesn’t change our single minded approach in representing all our members.
This isn’t about granting us speaking access. It’s about fixing fixtures. In effect, the proposals will create an elite ‘Super 8′ of counties, and it does nothing for the plight of the club player in those counties. It also does nothing for hurling.
We have called the GAA to take on board other stakeholders’ views. They agree with us on that, as they say they are canvassing county boards for their fixtures issues. Surely common sense must prevail here? It’s about what’s right, not who is right.
Ahead of this weekend’s GAA Congress we are pleading with our county representatives to consider carefully the implications of the championship proposals.
They are already groaning under the financial weight of running county teams. Over €23million at least was spent nationally last year. The proposed Super 8 idea adds more time, more costs and doesn’t help solve the issues of club fixtures.
We know where they stand, but they won't have a say, or even the right to speak at the weekend. They have been cut out of the process. The CPA have harnessed huge support nationwide in the short time they've existed. The GPA will decide tomorrow where they stand on the proposal but it's likely they will also refuse to support the change. Players have taken to Twitter this week to slam the measure.
their only priority is money
— colin ryan (@Ryan5C) February 22, 2017
Donal O Grady spot on. Why can't the hurling have a super 8 system. Most hurling teams in the country finished by mid July at present
— Rory Jacob (@RoryJacob) February 19, 2017
So where would this leave the GAA? An organisation where administrators in Croke Park, backed up by administrators around the country, are determined to press on with their ideas against the will of the players who make up the organisation.
Isn't this the kind of leadership that leads us down the road of strikes? Maybe the GAA needs a peasants revolt.