GAA's Fergal McGill critical of decision to start McKenna Cup in December
GAA Director of Player, Club and Games Administration Fergal McGill has criticised the Ulster Council’s decision to schedule the first round of the Dr McKenna Cup for Sunday, December 30.
While Ulster’s decision is dwarfed by the announcement from their Leinster counterparts that the O’Byrne and Walsh Cup (hurling) competitions will begin on the weekend of December 8/9, McGill said he was opposed to any inter-county fixtures being played before the turn of the year.
“Wearing the player welfare hat, I would be strongly of the opinion that there shouldn’t be any inter-county games in December,” he said.
“I don’t think the provincial competitions should start until January.
“But then again it is easy for me to say that; I’m not trying to fit the competition into the window the provinces have to fit it into so we have to take that on board.
“All things being equal, I think it would be better for the Association if the pre-season competitions weren’t started until January.”
He added: “We haven’t had good habits in this regard as an association. What we do is we design a competition then see how it fits into the calendar.
“We really have to start doing it the other way around and looking at what time is available in the calendar and designed a competition to fit that space.”
McGill unveiled the GAA fixtures masterplan for 2019 yesterday which includes a new ruling that will see the four provincial champions get home draws for the first round of Super8 games.
Meanwhile, April remains free of inter-county games and McGill says the GAA is “beginning to turn the tide” with the vexed issue of fixtures.
“I would also argue, and maybe I am in a privileged position because I see the stats coming in from our fixtures analysts, but I would say we are beginning to turn the tide,” he said.
“I’m not naive enough to think that we are going to have a situation where May and June is going to be full of inter-county players playing with their clubs. We are a million miles away from that.
“That’s a fundamental. If we decide as an Association like other sports have done, that you can sign a contract, and you are only assigned to one team, fine. But this goes to the fundamental heart of what we are about as an Association.
“We represent our clubs, and if we are good enough representing our clubs we get to represent our county and once you are representing both of those things you are always going to have this challenge.
“For me and for us it’s about rebalancing and getting the balance as right as possible, and I would strongly argue that at this point in time, this year represents overall a better experience than what had gone before.
“I think we have more work to do in that area, of course we have, but I do firmly believe looking at all 32 counties, but looking at the whole, as we are obliged to do, on the whole we’ve had a better experience.”