GAA Football

Feargal McGill: Clubs wouldn't have accepted early finish

Fergal McGill, Director of Player, Club and Games Administration, during the initial launch of GAA Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force report at GAA Museum last year. Photo by Sportsfile.

INTER-county games will go before club championships under new proposals to revamp the GAA calendar because clubs “would have had a difficulty accepting county finals in April or May”.

The GAA’s fixture task force yesterday revealed its updated plans that will see a proposed move towards a split season from 2022.

Several proposals remain on the table and a further consultation period will take place before the finalised plans are put forward for a vote at next year’s Annual Congress.

Among the radical proposals are the potential for the bottom ranked county in Ulster – which has Antrim for a number of years – to be moved into Connacht as part of a rebalancing of the provinces into four groups of eight.

The pre-season competitions are also set to be disbanded, a move which will cause consternation among Ulster Council especially given how financially important the Dr. McKenna Cup has been to the provincial body.

There would be a ban on inter-county training or games before January 1 in any year, with the All-Ireland club series’ to be played at the beginning of the new year as they were in 2020.

The proposals to revamp the football championship is broken into two main parts, with the first being the option that’s considering rebalancing the provinces into four eights.

Within the first plan, which would retain the current structure of league followed by championship, there are two options still being considered.

Automatically sending the bottom-ranked Ulster team from the Allianz League to Connacht, as well as the bottom three teams in Leinster into Munster, is the first option.

The other is that the bottom two from Ulster playoff, with the winner staying in the province and the loser going to Connacht.

The second overall proposal has abandoned any thoughts of balancing the provinces, and would instead focus on a provincial championship in the early part of the year followed by a league-based championship from April until July.

The GAA says it considered the idea of running the club season first but that the potential of early dates to avoid conflict with inter-county managers was too unpalatable.

“We gave some consideration to it but it was quickly obvious to us that it wasn’t likely to work, doing it the other way round,” said director of Player, Club and Games Administration, Feargal McGill.

“I think clubs would have had a difficulty having to accept playing county finals at the end of April or at beginning of May, which would have been a necessity if you flipped it and did it the other way round. I think that was probably the main concern.

“It also didn’t necessarily deal with the issue of club and county crossing over. It’s a lot easier in terms of crossover and counties looking for players’ time if you flip it to where it is at the moment, it’s a lot easier for problems to arise.

“The third reason was that whole piece when a club’s flagship team goes out of the championship, it is very, very difficult to get a team involved in league competitions, cup competitions or anything non-championship.

“If you are knocked out of the club championship, whether it is right or wrong you are wasting your time trying to play a league competition after that.”

Bringing the All-Ireland finals forward to no later than the middle of July is something the GAA’s membership will have to accept if it wants no interference in club fixtures from inter-county teams, says McGill.

“You can have All-Ireland finals in September if you want but there are certain things you can't have. This is one of the things.

“If you want no interference to club fixtures from the inter-county game then this is your way to do it. It's about choices and what people want, in terms of whether the Association is ready or not, we will find out very shortly.”

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