Sean Cremin examines ten things that could be done to make the GAA more progressive.
1. Sort out the fixture list
The GAA fixture list is all over the place. GAA teams at all levels do not have enough competitive games at appropriate times of the year. It really is a case of ‘feast or famine’ at all levels.
The GAA needs to get their fixture list in order on all fronts. It may mean cutting some competitions. But the talk of burnout is too frequent. The main reason players suffer from burnout is down to the lack of a proper fixture list. The GAA need to create this for everyone’s benefit.
2. The hirearchy must take control away from intercounty managers.
Those in charge of GAA must take a lot more responsibility. They have a difficult job and a lot of people to cater for. They do a lot of good work but there is so much that needs to change.
The main thing that needs to be done, is to stop intercounty managers dictating what goes on. Croke Park must take more responsiblity. GAA is growing and changing all the time and there needs to be adequate responsibility to be taken by those in charge. They must lead from the front and cater for ALL members of the GAA community.
3. Scrap replays
The lack of a fixture list means that replays can have a devastating effect on various different stakeholders. A draw at intercounty level can lead to endless number of club games being deferred. In 2014, a draw between Cork and Waterford in the Munster Senior Championship led to Cork Junior Championship games being postponed.
Getting rid of replays would free up time for others. The scheduling of replays is often far too long after the drawn encounter. The amount of draws are very high and teams are given too many chances to get ‘another day out’. Games must go to extra time and have to end on the day.
4. Distribute funds equally
Different counties will vary in their ability to generate funds. Dublin get highly criticised in this area. In reality though, Dublin is an attractive product to investors and they do generate a lot of their own income. But it should also be said that they are in an advantageous positions to boost their finances taking their population and infrastructures into account.
So this writer is not digging at Dublin, but they are an easy example to compare to other counties. No county is entitled to anything. But more could be done to create a level playing field.
5. Take Dublin out of Croke Park in the Leinster Championship
This is a massive bone of contention and it has been for a long time.
The point or argument here is not whether Dublin have an unfair advantage or not. It is about improving the championship.
The Leinster Football Championship is arguably the worst in GAA at the moment. Taking Dublin out of Croke Park and playing games in places like Laois, Longford and Kildare in smaller but packed out stadiums with great atmospheres would significantly improve things.
The spectacle would be enhanced greatly and it would help to resurrect the Leinster championship and hopefully have a knock-on effect elsewhere.
Playing in Nowlan Park this year is a start, but it must continue.
6. Use the stadiums
The first real highlight of use of stadiums was highlighted by Donal Óg Cusack back in 2014 following Cork’s loss to Tipperary. While his point was more a rant against the Cork County Board and Frank Murphy but it did raise a good alternative point. What was the real point in redeveloping Páirc Uí Chaoimh?
GAA stadiums should be used a lot more with many more competitive and attractive fixtures. It raises the point again about a fixture list and having competitions structured in a better way.Why not have a number of guaranteed games where teams have designated home games? This would mean more games and better use of good stadiums.
7. Build more full sized all-weather pitches
We mentioned stadiums being redeveloped. If grounds are going to continue to be isolated for the majority of the year like they are at the moment, and training is going to dominate more than matches, then the GAA should prioritise the upgrade of training facilities.
We live in Ireland where the weather is temperamental at the best of times. Any administrator, groundsman, school teacher and many more will have experienced the difficulty in getting pitches between October and March. Why not build more full sized astro-turf pitches? They are very short in supply and would save a lot of time and hassle over the winter months.
8. Cater for its own community first and foremost
The GAA Asian Games, the Super 11 game at Fenway Park between Dublin and Galway, the GPA’s continuous trips abroad, GAA on Sky Sports; these are a number of examples of how GAA is being promoted abroad. Should GAA be limited to Ireland? Not at all.
However, there are a lot of problems in GAA here, so, sort them out first before looking to expand abroad.
9. Consult players on rule changes
The most recent rule change was the mark in the Gaelic football. Similar to the hurling penalty, the rule was brought in with no trial or no consultation.
The game is changing and while players shouldn’t be given too much power, they should be spoken to about rule changes. Players should be allowed some input to any potential changes.
10. Employ former players as referees
The standard of refereeing is another constant bone of contention. It is very easy to criticise what is a very difficult job. The fact is that refereeing is not an attractive gig.
One must ask the question; why would someone want to be a referee and be subject to abuse from players, managers, supporters, parents and others?
The GAA need to make being a referee more attractive, and they also need people who have decent experience at playing the game to patrol the games. Why not try and get former players involved? They will have a lot of respect from players and the standard as a whole may increase.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.