Brian McAvoy sets out his stall ahead of Ulster Convention

Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy Picture by Hugh Russell

ULSTER Council secretary Brian McAvoy has released his annual report ahead of next week's Ulster Convention.

McAvoy deals with a number of topics which have caused controversy in Ulster GAA circles in his lengthy 80-page review, including disciplinary matters and the ongoing debate over the proposal for a second-tier football championship.

Regarding any perception of bias on the part of hearing committees appointed by county boards, McAvoy said: “It has been suggested to me from several interested parties that County Hearings Committee members should be drawn from outside the county to protect the interests of all and remove any perception of bias.

“Another suggestion is that a number of Hearings Panels be drawn up in the province and that committee members only sit on hearings which involve cases outside of their county.”

McAvoy suggested a new model could be trialled if sufficient support was evident: “It is an area which I feel is worthy of some debate and, if sufficient support were to be forthcoming, it could be trialled on a pilot basis in three willing and neighbouring counties.”

Regarding the debate over an All-Ireland ‘B championship', the Ulster secretary recognised an apparent swing in opinion on the issue, but raises a number of concerns regarding any roll-out of such a tournament: “It was interesting to read the results of a recent GPA survey which found that 58 per cent of their members favoured a two-tiered Football Championship.

“While it is not clear what percentage of respondents came from counties that are most likely to be included in a ‘B' Championship, there is clear evidence that there is a growing shift in opinion since the issue was last fully debated prior to the 2016 Congress.

“Any such competition must be meaningful and needs to be well marketed to achieve significant media coverage, while the impact on club activity must be kept to a minimum. The latter should be achievable.

“Exposure to the games on television will, however, not happen without changes to the existing media rights contract, as I'd be very confident that neither RTÉ nor Sky would countenance a situation where a ‘B' Championship match would form one of their live Championship picks.”

McAvoy added: “I also firmly believe that every county should still have the right to compete in their provincial Championship and for the Sam Maguire, though I accept that this is a view that may not be universally shared.”

On the punishment of Armagh for their infringement of the collective training rule, McAvoy joined manager Kieran McGeeney in alleging double standards: “Potential breaches were investigated, but just four [counties] were hit with sanctions,” he said.

“One of these was rescinded following a hearing. It beggars belief that only three county teams were found to have breached the rule and Armagh will, no doubt, believe and not without some justification that they have been penalised for telling the truth.

“Surely, clear guidelines need to be put in place to define ‘collective training' as the whole process has just left everyone confused – and Armagh feeling justifiably angry.”

The Ulster Convention will take place in the Hotel Kilmore in Cavan next Friday, January 25.

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