GAA Football

Aogán Ó Fearghail calls for shift in emphasis to county board delegates

Delegates vote at the GAA's annual congress 
Kenny Archer in Dubai

COUNTY board delegate should be regarded as the number one position in a club in order to improve the GAA, believes its president Aogán Ó  Fearghail.

The Drumgoon clubman used the changed in perception about one particular playing position to call for a new approach to choosing county board delegates.

“In the old days, I was a coach for many years and, God knows, we were very unfair to goalkeepers," he said.

“We picked outfield players and picked the best man on the pitch in the middle of the field. We started to fill other places and then we looked around the tent and if there was a fella left, he went into goals. The opposite will happen now - you put your strongest man in goals, it’s influencing what happens everywhere.

“County board delegates tended to be the same. We elected chairman and secretaries and went around all the positions and if there was any guy left we might send him to the county board.

“We have to change all of that thinking and we’re doing it through our club planning. We need good, strong people as county board delegates. We have loads of them but we need more and clubs need to be able to voice their opinions strongly at county board and likewise all the way through.”

Such change is already taking place, Ó Fearghail notes: “We have the Towards 2034 committee sitting to make sure we have a vision of where we want the GAA to be on its 150th birthday.

“I’ve had a look at their preliminary draft and I notice that that’s one issue that they have in there. They feel that the senior officers - chairman, secretary - should be a central council delegate and as soon as I saw I thought, 'That’s the correct way it should be' and it should be the way at club level. The operation of the GAA is actually there to solve our issues if people would harness it and use it.”

The Cavan man did point out that counties have to help their own club players by enforcing fixtures programmes: “There are two aspects of the current issue: one certainly has a national aspect to and they’re part of the current proposals, which will address that in tightening up the schedules and also addressing the need for excitement in the concluding stages.

“But having said that, if we pass everything in the morning by unanimity there are some counties which, given their current practices, would still not conclude their championships until Christmas. That’s a fact. Remember, we changed the rules at congress last year and the rules need to be implemented and we’re now strongly doing that.

“We have now got the fixtures analysts in every county and they have the right and the power under rule to go into every county and counties must submit their schedules to the provincial councils - but they haven’t been doing that.

“The provincial councils have the power to address it early on when they see every county’s programme. Not every provincial council has been doing that and we’re working with them to make sure that they look at the fixtures programme of every county.

“Changes need to be made, so make them. There is best practice. There are counties - I won’t name them for you, you guys know them - who run really good fixtures programmes and there are other counties who don’t do that.

“Therefore, there are a lot of issues to be addressed in individual counties. There are two horses in this race. There is the side of it at inter-county or national level that I believe our proposals will address, but there is also what the counties can do for themselves. When counties do alter their fixtures programme - and it does happen occasionally - it’s clubs that do it.

“If I was a club delegate I’d be very reluctant to change my fixtures programme just to suit inter-county games at the expense of my club. I was delighted last year when a couple of counties had proposals like that and wouldn’t do it.

"There are responsibilities for everyone in this.”

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