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Thursday 22 June 2017

GPA chief makes Earley statement of intent over SFC

Dermot Earley: congratulations on top role
Dermot Earley: congratulations on top role

New GPA chief executive Dermot Earley has made a day-one statement of intent - he wants the GAA to tackle football championship reform in a meaningful way.

The problem for Earley, though, is that GAA director-general Páraic Duffy already has a "modest" proposal for restructuring the SFC going before annual Congress next month and, if this is passed, that could scupper any more ambitious plans from the GPA.

A key plank of the Duffy blueprint would involve replacing the SFC knockout quarter-finals with two round-robin groups of four, while the inter-county season would also be condensed to free up extra time for the club championships.

Yet, based on Earley's remarks yesterday as he was unveiled as the GPA's second ever CEO in succession to Dessie Farrell, inter-county players crave something more radical.

PRESSING

"The most pressing (issue) is most certainly the championship structures.

"There is an appetite for change and we have been hearing that for a long time, certainly on the football side," he declared.

"We did present a proposal but it did not make it to the floor of Congress last year because it did not have a 'B' tier and the number of games were increased in the proposal.

"But the irony is that the GAA's proposal has an increased number of games as well."

He continued: "We won't be able to bring a motion ourselves until 2018, but we will watch this space very carefully and see what the reaction is and if that proposal will actually get passed.

"How the GPA will vote on that is on the basis of what our members want and I will engage with them on that before Congress."

But what if the GAA motion is passed - won't that scupper any short to medium-term prospect for further reform?

"Possibly yeah," the former Kildare star accepted. "I don't know how long it is off the agenda for - but if that is the case, that is the case."

PAY-FOR-PLAY

"There is an appetite for change," he reiterated. "Carlow brought a motion last year which almost got passed and for 10 minutes of debate got 40pc of the vote, which to me is a clear and utter signal for change. Something has to happen."

Next question - will anything happen on pay-for-play on his watch?

"It's all about whether or not the players are calling for that. When I go out to talk to them after taking over, if I come away from those discussions and I reflect that that is one of the pressing issues, then it does become something that is on the agenda. But at the moment, it's not. And I'm pretty close to the players to know that it's not top of the agenda at all."

GPA fund-raising in the USA would "absolutely" continue, to ensure all of its programmes are funded. Earley is taking a leave of absence from the Defence Forces but he said there's "a strong possibility I will not be going back". He aims to remain committed to the GPA "for a long number of years".

As for future managerial ambitions, he insisted: "That's not something that was on my agenda at all."

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