GAA Football

Ulster GAA chief Brian McAvoy highlights increased attendances for Ulster Championship

Ulster GAA chief Brian McAvoy has highlighted increased attendances at the Ulster Championship in his annual report
Andy Watters

ATTENDANCES at last year's Ulster Championship rose dramatically, according to figures released in Ulster GAA Secretary Brian McAvoy's 2019 report.

Down native McAvoy had highlighted a worrying drop in turnstile activity in his 2018 report after Championship attendances in Ulster had fallen below 100,000 for the first time in many years.

However, last season Ulster Gaels returned in their numbers for derby clashes in Newry, Derry and Cavan and McAvoy's report records how “almost 135,000 patrons passed through our gates”.

“The drawn semi-final between Cavan and Armagh necessitated a replay but even without this unexpected ‘boost' our Ulster Championship attendances exceeded 113,600.”

In his report, McAvoy also addressed the new rules which have been introduced to Gaelic Football this year. He sees merit in the sin bin and the advanced mark and has called for a change to the current four steps regulation for carrying the ball.

“Any rule that is not enforceable shouldn't be in statute and one rule in football that is rarely, if ever, enforced is the rule which states that the ball may be carried ‘for a maximum of four consecutive steps' ,” writes the Burren clubman.

“If any referee tried to enforce this rule chaos would ensue and the game would turn into a farce.

“This rule relates to a time when the ‘running game' was not as prevalent as it is today and the rule is no longer fit for purpose in the modern game.

“Quite simply the rule has not kept pace with the changing science of the game. This needs to be urgently addressed. There may be varying views as to what the appropriate number of steps may

be, but I would have thought that six would be an absolute minimum.”

Elsewhere in his report, McAvoy encouraged a “buy-in at all levels” for the GAA's Talent Academy and Player Development Review Committee report which was launched in November last year.

“This report points out that there is limited correlation between underage success and senior success,” he wrote.

“Underage success can at times be distorted by the presence of one or two very talented players, plus the fact that young people physically develop at different ages, and it is the ‘good' underage player who often finds it the most difficult to make the transition from juvenile to adult level.

“The prevalence of well-intentioned, but largely non-evidence-based underage development squads, has led to an ‘elitist culture' amongst some at an early age.

“This is unhealthy. The evidence across a range of sports indicates that it is the ‘late developer' to ‘elite level' who has the best chance of succeeding at the top levels of their sport. This is because their work ethic tends to be higher, given that they've had to work that bit harder throughout their development pathway.”

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