From: Paraic Ó Dufaigh, Ard-Stiúrthóir, CLG.
As you know, the attached discussion document was circulated in November which offered proposals to address the over-training, player-burnout and GAA fixtures-scheduling problems of the Association. The report was made available to all units of the Association and the Uachtarán, Feargal MacGiolla and I attended meetings with county officers in four provinces. We also conducted a conference call with the Provincial Council of Britain. Valuable feedback was obtained and, as a result of that engagement, amendments have been made to three of the original 11 proposals that will go before Congress and Central Council for decision.
U-21 Football Championship
The discussion paper proposed that the U-21 football championship be discontinued on the basis that the elite U-21 footballer would no longer have the added pressure of playing in, and training for, third-level championships, inter-county U-21 level and, in some instances, senior inter-county level all at the same time. However, the consultation process and other feedback revealed a concern at the gap that would be created in an elite football player’s development pathway by ending age-based inter-county competition at U-17. As a result, we have produced a revised proposal to create a developmental U-20 championship that would eliminate some of the difficulties currently facing elite players in the U-21 grade.
The revised proposal envisages a new U-20 football championship to be played midweek in June and July from 2018. Under the rules, all games would finish on the day – there will be no replays. Extra time, if inconclusive, would be followed by a ‘sudden death’ free-taking competition. Eligibility would be restricted to those players who are over-age for U-18 and eligible for U-20; players who have featured on a team list submitted to a referee for an inter-county senior championship game in the current year will be ineligible to participate. If Congress accepts this proposal, Congress 2017 will be asked to remove the requirement of Rule 6.21 whereby players in under-age championships are not expected to fulfil club championship fixtures within seven days of an inter-county championship game. This is to ensure that club championship matches would not be postponed because of participation in the U-20 championship.
This proposal, with its eligibility restrictions, will: (i) meet the player-development need for an inter-county championship to bridge the gap between U-17 and senior competition; (ii) avoid the simultaneous and intense pressures on players of coping with inter-county U-21 competition and preparing for and sitting vital school and college examinations; (iii) end the clash between third-level, U-21 and senior competitions; (iv) reduce the surfeit of competitions in the January-April period, and therefore the burden of too much training and too many matches for young elite players; (v) have no impact on the playing of minor club (U-18) competitions; (vi) have minimal impact on adult club championships, few of which games are played during June and July; (vii) allow the competition to be played in the better weather of June and July.
The second major concern related to the abolition of all replays in provincial and All-Ireland senior championship games. While there was an acceptance of the impact of replays in provincial and All-Ireland senior championship games on club championship programmes, there was also a strongly expressed view that finals should be excluded from the proposal. There is no doubt that some of the opposition to the original proposal was partly dictated by financial concerns, but there was also a sentiment that the status of provincial and All-Ireland finals merit a replay when the first game ends in a draw. The revised proposal provides for replays in Provincial Senior and All-Ireland finals only – nine games in all - whereas there is, currently, potential for a replay in 54 matches after provincial and senior championship drawn games.
All-Ireland Junior Football Championship
Finally, the counties in Britain were unhappy with the proposal to abolish the All-Ireland Junior Football championship which, for most of their counties, is the only opportunity to compete for an All-Ireland title. A motion has been drafted that meets their need in this regard and that also has the potential to meet a developmental need for some of our less successful counties.
The other eight proposals will go forward to Congress and Central Council as outlined in the discussion document.
Congress takes place in Carlow on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 February.