Monday 24 April 2017

Dessie Farrell: It's time to abandon the provinces

GPA chief calls for total overhaul of Football Championship

Dessie Farrell
Dessie Farrell
Tipperary hurler Noel McGrath with children, from left, Oran, Ciara and Shona Murray, all from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, at the launch of a new charity partnership between the GPA and Childhood Cancer Foundation.

THE GPA are in the process of formulating an alternative structure to the All-Ireland senior football championship and will present it to Central Council for debate in the near future.

GPA chief executive, Dessie Farrell, yesterday stated that he "firmly believes the championship structure needs to change".

"Hurling is in a really strong place at the minute, football is lagging way behind," he said in response to renewed calls for a shake-up after Dublin's annihilation of Longford on Sunday.

"It's nothing to do with Sunday's game but obviously that exacerbates the issue for a period of time in people's minds," he continued.

Specifically, Farrell wants the removal of the provincial championships, despite acknowledging traditionalist reluctance to do so.

"Any changes that come about that still retain the provincial structure are only moving the deck chairs around," he insisted.


"It's time to grab the nettle and make a serious change.

"We're going to bring forward a particular model that we've been working on ourselves and run that by our own membership first," he said, adding that there existed a strong appetite for change amongst the inter-county playing fraternity.

"What that change looks like, does vary depending on what county you play with, your level of ambition and what you can realistically expect to achieve and accomplish given the circumstances that a team finds itself in."

In 2012, the GPA put forward four alternative championship structures to their membership after being charged with addressing the possible need for change by then president, Liam O'Neill.

Tipperary hurler Noel McGrath with children, from left, Oran, Ciara and Shona Murray, all from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, at the launch of a new charity partnership between the GPA and Childhood Cancer Foundation.

However, Farrell maintained yesterday that "in the last 12 to 18 months, I see more and more of a consensus developing around this issue".

On the possibility of a mooted two-tiered format, Farrell asked: "Could you introduce a second competition whereby both finals were played on the one day here on the third week in September?

"I think that would hold more appeal.

"Aogán O'Farrell and Pauric Duffy, they're very keen to engage on this issue," he added.

"I got that sense from Central Council. But they did say, 'it's all well and good saying change needs to happen but you need to be coming forward with the solutions to the problem'."

Farrell also revealed that the GPA were in the formative stages of launching a campaign to discourage the practice of 'sledging'.

"It's horrible, horrible to look at," he said, explaining that the project had been in development prior to the recent high-profile examples and accusations of such behaviour.

"I think the managers and coaches need to step up to the plate here as well.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say it's being encouraged by some coaches but I'd definitely go so far as to say that coaches are turning a blind eye to it in certain situations and that can't be tolerated."

Whilst Farrell said that sledging had always existed in some form, it had now taken on a more sinister dimension.

"It doesn't necessarily seem to be top-of-the-head stuff," he outlined.

"Players, it would appear to me, are actually thinking about this and what they are going to say and how they are going to say it and that's not good

"If you are a coach and see a player having a conversation with an opponent, you have to ask yourself what is that about, if it is going to serve him or the team any good, that conversation.


"And I'm playing the game a long time now and have yet to see it, a conversation between two opponents that served anyone any good."

It has been suggested that players could kill the practice by naming and shaming their taunters.

"Not every player is comfortable with that," Farrell said.

'If players are, that's great, and they come out and tell their story.

"If they've been a victim of serial abuse over the years or a concerted sledging campaign against them, not necessarily by an individual or team, but just that they've been at the receiving end of that for a period of time, that's always helpful (if targeted player brings it to attention of GAA authorities).

"I'm not too sure if there is too many of those."

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