GAA Football

Ulster needn't fear for its football Championship - GAA President

Tyrone and Monaghan fought out a thrilling Ulster SFC Final at Croke Park - and GAA President Larry McCarthy allayed fears over the competition's future.
Pic Philip Walsh
Paul Keane at Croke Park

GAA President Larry McCarthy has insisted that Ulster counties have nothing to fear, financially or otherwise, from embracing Proposal B and football Championship reform.

Various Ulster figures including provincial secretary Brian McAvoy and Monaghan star Darren Hughes have criticised the league as championship recommendation ahead of Saturday's Special Congress vote.

McAvoy has claimed that flipping the season and running off the provincial competitions in spring would effectively reduce them to pre-season competitions.

Along with breaking up an Ulster championship that is traditionally regarded as the most competitive in the country, there may also be a financial element to the Ulster Council's concerns.

Asked if he was disappointed by opposition from Ulster, McCarthy shook his head.

"It hasn't disappointed us, I mean you would expect Ulster would be advocating for their championship," he said before moving to allay the fears of all provincial councils. "I don't know what their fear is. The moving of the (provincial) competitions to earlier in the year might be a concern but in terms of finance and support, that's not going to change."

GAA Finance Director Ger Mulryan said that having crunched the numbers on Proposals A and B, as well as the status quo, 'there is not a huge financial variance in them' with regards to gate receipts and overall revenue.

Top official Ryan also suggested that if Ulster, or any provincial councils, were to lose out financially, they would be propped up from central funds.

"The interesting thing about the numbers Ger has prepared is that, consciously, we have done them in the round," said Ryan. "That's taking an association-wide view of things. It's not a provincial versus Central Council thing, or an Ulster versus Munster thing. We are looking at what the resources will be that will be available to all of us.

"And we know what our responsibilities are as the national governing body and we have always lived up to those. And we've said, not just to Ulster but to any of the provinces or counties, and we have met with all of them over the course of the last few weeks, that the level of resources to the broader association will be broadly the same. Our responsibilities to you will be approximately the same and will still live up to those responsibilities."

It was put to Ryan that this could be interpreted as a guarantee that the overall GAA pie could be divided up differently in future, to ensure provinces are compensated for any losses.

"And that happens all the time, irrespective of what we might be looking at in terms of championship structures or anything," responded Ryan, the GAA's former financial guru.

The Gaelic Players Association are strongly in favour of change and believe they represent the views of the majority of inter-county players.

"The player voice is an important one, I think it's one everybody that is casting a vote will have an eye to," said Ryan, before McCarthy interjected and gave his opinion on this.

"They (players) are part and parcel of the consideration but it's for the overall good of the institution that this proposal was put forward in the first place.

"There are other stakeholders. The players are obviously an important part of that and they have voiced their opinion, which is great."

Both GAA officials said their feeling is that even if a Championship overhaul doesn't come this weekend, it's imminent.

"I think so, and that's not a bad thing," said Ryan. "Given all the change we've had to go through over the last two years, for all manner of other reasons, I don't think we need to be afraid of change either. We are well able to do that."

Many counties have already decided which way to vote on Saturday while others are still considering their options. To those counties who are undecided, Ryan said he would personally recommend Proposal B.

"If I had a vote, I'd be voting for the second one," said Ryan. "I'm not in the business of extolling a particular course of action. Maybe we're trying to explain to people the implications of what it might mean if they cast a vote in a certain direction but, to be honest, if I had a vote that's where I'd be casting it."

McCarthy favours Proposal B too though didn't exactly issue a rallying cry on its behalf.

"I'm simply giving my personal opinion as uachtaran, I would hope there will be change but am I going to tell delegates how they should vote? Certainly not," said McCarthy. "Would I encourage them? I would encourage them to be bold."

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GAA Football