GAA Football

Counties should declare their hand in public over Championship reform: Ronan Sheehan

Down hurling boss Ronan Sheehan believes it is 'absolutely vital' that counties publicly stating where they stand regarding proposals for reform of the football Championship ahead of next week's Special Congress. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

COUNTIES publicly stating where they stand regarding proposals for reform of the football Championship is “absolutely vital”, according to GAA fixtures taskforce member Ronan Sheehan.

Proposals will go before Special Congress on October 23, with the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) coming out strongly in favour of proposal B - a league-based model for the All-Ireland Championship – in recent weeks.

Counties are still having discussions about what way they will vote in eight days’ time, though some have already come out and publicly declared their hand.

And, whether for or against proposal B, Sheehan believes it is only right that GAA members are kept fully informed about how a decision is reached.

“Counties coming out and publicly supporting it or stating where they stand is absolutely vital,” said the Newry man, who is the GPA’s representative on the fixtures calendar review taskforce.

“What, at its core, is a county board? It’s effectively a representative of you, me and all of us who pay our subs in Offaly, Down, Tipperary or Clare…

“We should know how they’re going to vote on one of the biggest votes for this association in the past 25 years. Why should they be silent? They should come out and say one way or the other.

“If they’re voting against it, they’re saying, ‘we’re going against the thoughts of our county manager and our county panel because we know better’. If that’s what they’re going to say, fair enough, but have the courage of their convictions to come out publicly rather than go in silently and put their hand up or press a button next Saturday and none of us know what way they voted or didn’t vote.

“Michael Duignan, to be fair, has had the strength of his conviction to come out publicly and the guys in Tipperary have spoken out publicly. That’s good to see.

“To be fair to Down they put out a message last week to all of the clubs asking that for the county board meeting tonight (Thursday), they indicate what they want. Do they want to vote A or B? Have they any concerns etc? That’s good to see.

“Journalists who write about our games have to deal with a cloak of secrecy the GAA can put over things. What are we afraid of as an association? We should be speaking up.”

Sheehan also dismissed suggestions that some fellow taskforce members who brought the All-Ireland SFC proposals to the table now have cold feet about what is going forward.

“I think that’s pretty much untrue,” he said.

“I think there is a train of thought which is very much of ‘let democracy take its course and we won’t say anything’, and then there is a number of us that feel very strongly - that if you spend time and effort putting together a proposal in the way that we did, then we should back it publicly and we should speak out publicly on it.

“Certainly I was there as a representative of the GPA, so clearly I have a very players’ based view on this was the best option available at this moment in time.”

Sheehan is also concerned about any possibility that the motion could be parked, to be reviewed further – claiming that means we will “be stuck with the status quo”.

“We need to look at it in the context of if we go with proposal B and we then need to tweak it, that’s fine.

“But if we turn around next week at Congress and we say we need to take it off the table and we’re going to revisit it again… the reality is this will just get buried like many other papers and reports that the GAA have had in the past and we’ll be stuck with the status quo.

“What I think everybody recognises is that the status quo is not working. It’s not working for players, it’s not working for counties, it’s not working for the GAA public and it’s not working in general for people because there just isn’t the appetite there for it.

“My own view, and I hope the GAA go ahead with this, is that we should put it to a vote. If it doesn’t pass, fair enough, but I think that then is an indictment on us as an association that we are against change, and that we’re not brave enough to embrace change.

“There is nobody suggesting proposal B is perfect, but if we reject it next weekend, or kick the can down the road, then we are in real danger of going through the same failure of the status quo for the next number of years.”

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