Panacea solution to our SFC woes 'is not out there'
Páraic Duffy insists there is no big row between Croke Park and the GPA over the latter's stymied blueprint for football championship reform - just a "difference of opinion", writes Frank Roche.
The GAA's director-general chose yesterday's unveiling of his annual report to detail why the proposal submitted by Dessie Farrell's players body was shot down by Central Council.
"If we can't have a discussion with the GPA and disagree, there's something wrong," he suggested.
"We have a different view than they have. Not Aogán (Ó Fearghail, the GAA president) and I - Central Council. And I've explained the reasons why - because there were too many games in it. Because it meant, we felt, too many one-sided games. Because the provincial championships would be downgraded. And those three things were all contrary to what Central Council decided should be the core of any championship structure.
"But there's no question of any row between ourselves and the GPA; it's a difference of opinion. They want more games. I suppose our view would be we want more club games and we want less training."
Duffy expanded that under the GPA plan, you'd go from 61 SFC games to 116. He said their All-Ireland format, with eight seeded groups of four, would lead to "more one-sided games" between Division One and Four outfits.
He also questioned any dilution of the championship's knockout aspects, pointing out that 48 round-robin games would be played to eliminate just eight teams. "The history of the GAA with round-robin has not been good," he added.
The flip side of this angst-ridden debate is that Central Council's alternative plan - which would see the eight Division Four counties siphoned off to a 'B' championship instead of playing in the qualifiers - has met with a hugely underwhelming reaction.
"It's not as simple as it's perhaps being portrayed," Duffy maintained. "This idea of 'Oh, the GAA, no creativity' ... this is very difficult.
"Everybody can tell you what's wrong with the championship, they can tell you that this is no good for the weaker counties. But there's very, very few ideas; very few solutions. And there's no solution - one size fits (all). There's no great proposal out there; or if there is, we didn't get it."
Duffy accepted that many Division Four players "don't like the idea of a 'B' championship" but he insisted this latest proposal differs from its much-maligned predecessor.
"The Tommy Murphy Cup was a competition - it wasn't a championship, this is. Secondly, it brings qualification at a higher level into the following year's championship. That's a big difference. The Tommy Murphy Cup went no place," he concluded.