New GAA President Larry McCarthy favours change to football format
NEW GAA President Larry McCarthy has cast doubt on whether he'll be pushing for a League-based format for the inter-county senior football championship.
The future direction of the football competition will be decided at a Special Congress later this year and although the Cork native acknowledged "I certainly favour change, whatever that might be", he added: "It wouldn't necessarily mean I have a preference for that particular format of the Championship. I guess at this stage it would be wrong to make my preferences known.
"There is going to be a vigorous discussion on it over the summer, hopefully by the time we get to Special Congress, so don't read anything into it."
McCarthy had appeared to favour a League format to the football championship during his maiden speech as President at Saturday's online Annual Congress, saying:
"One of options links the Allianz League to the championship. It would appear to have the potential to make the championship competition more competitive, at least in the early rounds.
"It has the potential to alleviate the issue of non-competitive games which exist in some of our football competitions."
McCarthy seemed to criticise the Super Eights element of the All-Ireland SFC, contrasting it with the present hurling format:
"In the next few months, we will decide how the Senior Football Championship will be constructed.
"If we adopt one of the new formats proposed by the Fixtures Review Committee, which will be debated at a Special Congress later in the year, we will trial it, and, if we are happy with it, we will adopt it on a longer-term basis, much as we did with the current hurling championship, which we have found to be to our liking, but not so much the so-called Super Eights. We will hopefully be bold and trial one of the new formats."
Yet one League-related proposal for the football championships is under threat and might not get going.
GAA Director-General Tom Ryan accepted that the proposed Tier Two Football Championship – the Tailteann Cup – may not happen again this year, having been put off from its planned inaugural running last season due to the coronavirus crisis:
"Logic dictates that something is going to have to give. Specifically, I don't know what that is. I certainly didn't rule it out. From my own perspective at the moment, everything seems to be challenging.
"I don't know what we will be able to play and what we won't be able to play. A lot of it will depend on the latitude that we are given by the Government and the time that we are left with. On the theme of last year, people will do all that we can."
Outgoing President John Horan understandably still backed the Tailteann Cup, which would remove Division Three and Four teams from the football qualifiers unless they were to reach their provincial finals:
"The Tailteann Cup can be a very significant addition to the calendar. Far from being a vanity project it was inspired by the counties it is designed to assist and it can be a help and not a hindrance if given the opportunity.
"No one contemplates changing the hurling format away from the provincial round robin structures – yet that structure had endured serious scepticism when first presented…
"Our football format can be similarly energised by some bold thinking and the formats up for review succeed in providing something exciting.
"What matters in all of these things is that we have a debate and there is nothing to fear in that."
New President McCarthy spoke also of the plans to boost club hurling, especially in counties where football is dominant:
"Our hurling championships have evolved into excellent tiered competitions where counties are competing at an appropriate level. We now need to evolve and create competitions where club players can have similar opportunities, particularly in counties where hurling is not the first preference of the majority.
"The creation of competitions under the banner of the Cuchulainn leagues are excellent examples of cross-county competitions which we will continue to grow and expand.
"We are looking to provide a challenging programme of games even if it means breaking down some pre-existing barriers. But, we cannot grow or develop any sport from the top down, it needs to grow organically, and so we will take our lead from hurlers in these clubs and counties."