Danny Hughes: Paraic Duffy deserves credit for his time in charge
SCANNING over the club championship results on Sunday, I was intrigued to see so many former county footballers – the likes of Leighton Glynn and Mattie Forde – continuing to pick up championship medals around the country.
You can’t beat experience, especially of winning. Much like losing, it’s a hard habit to break.
While the Slaughtneil bandwagon keeps on rolling, Kilcoo will be licking their wounds all winter as a first Ulster Club SFC continues to elude them.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, then try again. Kilcoo, like many other beaten teams in counties around Ulster, will no doubt regroup and go once more.
Pre-season will be particularly tough for some of these boys.
One man who will not have to do pre-season again is Paraic Duffy, who is retiring as the GAA’s director general in 2018.
A number of names have been linked with succeeding him, with John Costello of Dublin seemingly the early favourite.
Former Armagh captain Jarlath Burns could also be in with a shout for what is a huge, and very difficult, role within the GAA.
Much praise has been sent in Duffy’s direction during his almost 10 years in the position – a term that was expected to be longer as he agreed to stay on until 2022 as recently as three years ago.
Duffy will leave his post in March, just before the changes to the hurling championship come into force.
The scrutiny and pressure on the role continues to increase with each passing year, and the job must feel like a thankless one at times, so perhaps Duffy feels a younger and more energetic person may be able to take the Association forward.
On the few occasions I’ve met Paraic Duffy, he’s seemed a very intelligent and decent man.
My father also met him when both were working as teachers. Paraic was principal of St Macartan’s College in Monaghan and my father was impressed with his ability to run a successful school.
It was almost as if he was made for the director general role.
Administration can be viewed as a bad word in the GAA, with those responsible for it getting the blame for anything and everything.
Many ex-players tend to look on administrative duties with a great deal of suspicion, which is unfair, and it is only right that these jobs at the top level are now paid positions.
Paraic Duffy’s role requires his full attention, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
He has had a lucrative contract, make no mistake about that, but if he had been running a company in the private sector with a turnover as big as the GAA’s, one would assume he could have commanded a far higher salary.
If you were to forensically analyse Duffy’s performance in his current role, you would have to say he has performed extremely well.
Financially, the Association is in a very strong place.
In 2007, annual turnover was £27m and now it is over £100m.
Major sponsors have come on board, such as AIG, Emirates and Centra/Supervalu, to name but a few.
The quiet move away from endorsing alcohol and similar types of branding is commendable, even if it continues to be a slow process.
Thankfully, Duffy has also resisted any moves to brand a number of key stadiums, which would surely have brought in significant revenue.
He has done his best by players as well, bringing the GPA into the fold and rewarding them handsomely.
Duffy has definitely maximised the revenue streams and sold the GAA dream to the public.
But, did we read the small print?
With the vast sums now rolling into the coffers of Croke Park each year, to say that the grass roots have been neglected would be wrong.
There is hardly a poor facility or playing field in the country, with floodlights and 3G pitches popping up right across our communities and parishes.
But to say that the grassroots are in rude health would also be wrong.
There is still no real breakthrough in terms of the fractious relationship between club and county when it comes to the fixture calendar.
In fact, certain county teams and their management are still able to dictate when and where club matches are played, which can’t be right.
Inter-county football has continued to move towards semi-professionalism over the last decade and the gap between the strongest and the rest has grown significantly.
This is not Duffy’s fault – it is more a consequence of the fact that the likes of Dublin, Kerry and Mayo can attract 10 times the investment of a Carlow or Leitrim.
Yet Duffy should have done more to address the issue, rather than continuing to prioritise funding directed at major urban centres.
Rural counties and parishes are on their knees.
Paraic Duffy will argue that his role is a diverse one and he cannot be expected to shoulder the blame for all these decisions – after all there is a committee who oversees his work and makes a significant number of other decisions.
However, it is the director general’s role to secure enough support nationwide to drive through change – fair change – at Congress.
Only recently was the rule allowing a 60 per cent majority to carry a motion implemented.
This was 10 years too late in some instances.
I suspect the provincial system of operating in isolation has been a source of frustration for Duffy.
You get the impression that changes to the hurling and football structures would have come much sooner had the power been in his hands.
Therefore, the ‘Super Eight’ is what it is.
My fear is that we will see a continuation of an elite group who will have a select number of ‘yo-yo’ counties joining them each season.
Permanent members Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Tyrone will be joined by four others, but the one constant will be the strength of those permanent members.
However, that is a problem for the next man.
Paraic Duffy has given a decade of service to the GAA and has decided the time is right to move on.
There will soon be a new director general in place.
Only time will tell if he is a good one or not.