Leading Down official Seán Óg McAteer warns of new challenges in 2018
DOWN secretary Seán Óg McAteer has raised the spectre of players declining call-ups to the county set-up in his speech to last weekend’s Mourne county convention.
Addressing the changes to inter-county football that are to be rolled out in the new year, including the ‘Super 8’ format in the Championship, McAteer claimed some players may find the multiple claims to their allegiance too much to handle.
“2018 will present new challenges for the GAA - nationally, provincially, at county level and at club level - with the introduction, for a trial period, of the new inter-county calendar,” the Down secretary noted in his annual report.
“The aim of bringing the needs of the club player more into focus will be the object of much scrutiny; yet, the question remains, what does the club player want from a season? The focus will also shift to the inter-county player, and is his calendar going to be condensed to the extent that he will decline the invitation to play county football?”
McAteer was also nervous about what he alleges is a desire among some to diminish the importance of the provincial championships and remove the right of all counties to enter the race for the All-Ireland SFC title on an annual basis.
“There are those within the association and on the punditry circuit who would have us move away from the provincial structure and brand, to move us to a model more akin to trying to create different tiers,” he added.
“I feel we have to protect our provincial structure and our provincial championships as a mechanism to progress to any new structure at [All-Ireland] quarter-final level, like we will have with the new Super 8s.
“We have already lost the provincial allegiance for players with the demise of the Inter-Provincial series, the Railway Cups. We cannot go down the line of a removal from the provinces of the best mechanism to compete for the Sam Maguire, in particular.
“Indeed, every county must still have the opportunity to compete for the Sam Maguire, the wheel will always turn and some more than others will have their day in the sun, but we must all be able to dream the dream. All counties must be able to compete for the Sam Maguire, always.”
McAteer did, however, pledge that Down will make the most of the upcoming alterations to the Championship: “Change will be upon us in 2018, we will embrace it, we will work with it and we must be strategic in how we view and monitor such change,” he said.
“At all times, any change must be for the best interests of our association as a whole, not for any particular group or body, not at the behest of the worlds of punditry and the media, but for the best interests of our members and our members only.”
In his address, the long-serving Down secretary also called on club committees to assert their control over the fixtures calendar, which he fears is being changed at the behest of managers.
“I would also urge club elected committees to take back control of the club fixtures,” he added.
“Too often now, team managers are dictating the agenda in relation to fixtures. The club secretary, or if there is a fixtures’ secretary, should be the person dealing with any matters pertaining to fixtures.
“Private agreements between managers hold no status with CCC or hearings committees. As I have said earlier, local arrangements or private agreements are not covered under bylaw or in the official guide.”