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WITH many of the clubs within the county playing in either league or championship games last Saturday and Sunday, the top brass of the GAA were at HQ discussing and deliberating over motions to decrease the possible number of games in the inter-county league and championship Qualifiers in order to create more space for club games in the official GAA calendar.
The proposal to return the league format to a divisional system from 1 to 4 will now mean that there will be no league semi-finals, just a final between the top team in the respective divisions and the reduction of the qualifying rounds of the championship from 4 to 3 should now cater for a 4 week period/window to allow County Boards fix club games at league and championship level.
Having read Colm O’Rourke’s article in this week’s Sunday Independent, his belief is that as long as there are so many competitions involving the same players – inter-county league, championship, U21, Sigerson, FBD and we haven’t mentioned any of the club competitions – the proposals passed at Special Congress are only a ‘sticking plaster solution’.
I feel though that the problem can be addressed from within each county and at present a specially formed ‘Task Force’ has been established in Mayo to look at the issue. But before these are published here are this column’s proposals for a new club competition format.
Firstly, your league status should be determined by your championship status of the previous year, ie if you are playing senior championship in 2007 then you will also be playing senior Division 1 league 2007.
Secondly, the championship would remain in its present format, 4 groups of 4 teams each playing each other once, with the top 2 from each group qualifying for quarter-finals, bottom team in each group play a relegation game in an open draw format with 2 teams relegated and 2 teams being promoted (the finalists from the intermediate final).
Thirdly, the league should be then split into 2 groups of eight teams, each team playing a minimum of 7 league games, at least 5 of these games to be played before the 1st round of the championship (with the senior inter-county players being made available) and the remaining 2 rounds to be played during the Summer but before the end of August with the inter-county players being made available if Mayo are out of the championship at this stage.
Plus, the league winners would be determined by a league semi-final, comprising the top 2 teams from each of the groups and final
Also, each team will have received a minimum of 11 competitive games in which their inter-county stars would be available for a minimum of nine games, teams that qualify to the county final would have 14 games and teams that qualify for the league final would have a further 2 games, all in all it would be possible for some team to have 16 games.
I feel that it is very important that our league competition is not diminished under the new structure.
The current league competition within the county is very competitive and this I feel has been a major reason as to the recent success of clubs within the county at provincial and national level.
If the County Board felt that not enough games were being played they could also reintroduce the Summer League competition and fix those games on the same weekend as Mayo would be playing championship.
At least then the 2 main competitions would still remain competitive and also clubs could be facilitated with games through a third competition.
Last week Eamonn Clarke, Mayo GAA Development Officer, told Mayo club delegates that under the new proposals all club players would have at least 20 games.
I, as a club player, don’t want or need 20 games a year. I would rather see all club football commence in March and finish in September. At that rate there aren’t enough weekends to accommodate 20 games and that isn’t taking into account drawn games being re-fixed or if Mayo are playing in Croker most people now do an overnight.
It has to be remembered that ordinary life does have to go on alongside playing football.
Another point I have to ask is do we have enough referees available to officiate at games? If we are to increase the number of games each team will be playing. I was under the impression that referees were scarce.
Other points to note are that without the co-operation of the clubs, inter-county management and the County Board ,the club vs county fixture issue can never be sorted. Clubs can’t be giving out about the lack of games and then at the drop of a hat request to have a game postponed.
Last April and May when Mayo’s U21’s were at the height of their playing activities, clubs were demanding that games be postponed because they had one guy involved. That sort of thing cannot continue.