GAA Football

Duffy claims 'driven agenda' forming players versus administrators narrative

Paraic Duffy speaking during the 2017 GAA Annual Congress at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile.
From Cahair O'Kane at Croke Park

PÁRAIC Duffy appeared to accuse the Club Players' Association of driving a divisive agenda between players and administrators after seeing his proposals for Championship reform accepted.

It was a major victory for Páraic Duffy and Central Council as the delegates brought the curtain down on a long drawn out debate over the structure of the All-Ireland SFC by voting for change.

And the CPA's official proposed recognition didn't even get as far as a vote after a number of speakers outlined concerns over their lack of constitution or mandate.

Asked if he was concerned by a growing narrative of the public against administrative figures, Duffy defended the GAA's recent record.

“It's being driven. I met with the CPA four times and the first two meetings were extremely positive meetings.

“We didn't change the narrative - I have never said one negative thing about the CPA.

“The strongest thing I said was that I was disappointed they rejected the proposals out of hand. I think the people that are writing those things need to look at themselves.

“I met them four times and I'm happy to meet them again - the GAA wants to engage. Michael Higgins is a national executive member of the CPA - Michael Higgins is a member appointed by Aogán [Ó Fearghail] and I two years ago of the central fixtures analysis committee.

“What are we supposed to do? It's not being driven by us. You saw at congress - the GAA aren't looking for a row here.”

In the end, it proved a landslide in every sense for the three-part motion, which will see a round-robin introduced at the quarter-final stage on a three-year trial period from 2018.

Despite expectations that it would spark fierce debate on the floor, only Cork and the Gaelic Players' Association – briefly – spoke against the proposals.

They were heavily backed by, among others, Jarlath Burns and former Uachtarán Sean Kelly, who said he was in favour “with some reluctance”.

The Kerry man also questioned Congress over its reluctance to introduce a tiered structure to the All-Ireland SFC.

Quizzed on what the deal would mean for television coverage of the latter stages of the Championship, Duffy said that there would most likely be additional games shown, but that it would not change the financial terms of the GAA's current agreement with broadcasters.

“No, we're not obliged to do that [show more games on TV]. We'll look at that in terms of support and so on.

“But, some of these games, for example the last four games will be played all at the same time.

“So there may be a slight increase in the number of games but it'll be limited, maybe some.

“We signed the agreements based on the current (structures) but we were aware when we were negotiating with them that it was a possibility there could be change. They'll have no issue around that, it doesn't make a difference.

“It might have an impact on the number of games [shown] but it doesn't affect the financial, none of those things, no.”

The All-Ireland finals will also be brought forward to August, with Duffy revealing afterwards that they could be played on successive Sundays as opposed to retaining the traditional week's break in between.

There will be no replays in the Championship barring the event of a provincial or All-Ireland final being drawn after Congress overwhelming accepted the trilogy of motions.

The move comes a year after a proposal to introduce a second-tier to the All-Ireland SFC was rejected, while a move to have the majority needed to pass motions at Congress reduced to 60 per cent also beaten.

This time, the reform – in a different guise – was accepted, while delegates also agreed to cut the ‘pass' mark to just 60 per cent.

The general GAA public's reaction to yesterday's events at Croke Park appeared scathing but Duffy defended the role of Congress as a democratic body.

“I think today was really democratic. As I said, what more can you do short of polling everybody on every issue. The people who were there today, the representatives, they are people from the clubs. What could be more democratic than clubs debate it, counties debate it?

“I don't know what level of debate took place in clubs. Did every club in the country debate it? Probably not. Did a lot of them? I'd say, yes.

“Did county committees debate them? Definitely. A lot of them on more than one occasion. That is democracy.

“People will react. Decisions go against me sometimes and you'd be very annoyed about it. There's an instant reaction and so on on Twitter and all of those things.

“But it's democracy. I had no idea going in there what the vote was going to be, no more than you had.

“I read your article [in Thursday's Irish News] where you predicted it and I maybe had an idea, but that's all. We had no way of knowing, but it was democracy.

“And I honestly believe that reflects of the GAA that it's worth having a look at this. What's to be lost by trying it? I'm not saying everyone believes it's brilliant or it's the best thing ever, I don't believe it is.

“But it's a possible improvement and it's worth trying out. That's what Congress decided today. Nothing more dramatic than that.”

A survey undertaken by The Irish News last week suggested that the vote from counties was set to be very close. However, with 64 of the 238 votes at Congress coming from bodies outside Ireland that are not directly impacted by the structure of the All-Ireland SFC, Duffy was forced to defend the make-up of the voting.

“Those people are entitled to express their views. If you take those out, it's 2:1 instead of 3:1. Take all of those out and assume they all voted for it which I doubt. I'd be pretty certain they didn't all vote in favour. Take them all out, and it's still a 2:1 vote.”

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