So with the dust and hysteria both settled following on from last week’s GAA congress let’s take a cold clinical look as the Super 8 proposal and what it means for Limerick Football.
The GAA writers of Last Sunday’s sports articles dedicated column after column to the GAA Congress and to their decision to allow for a ‘Super 8’ or so called round robin into the GAA Championship that will begin a three year trial in 2018.
Simply they proposed that the four provincial champions and the four provincial runners-up, or the team that beats them in round four of the qualifiers, will be sorted into two groups of four. Each team will play one home game, one away game and one game in Croke Park, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the semi-finals.
For example one group would be the Connacht Champion, Munster Champion, Leinster Runner Up and Ulster Runner Up or the team that beats the Runner Up in Round Four of the Qualifiers. The other group would have the Leinster Champion, Ulster Champion, Connacht Runner Up and Munster Runner Up or the team once again that beats them in Round Four of the Qualifiers.
The proposal does nothing for so-called weaker counties, either in terms of their individual requirements or as a means of narrowing the gap between them and their stronger rivals.
Each year it will still be the top teams benefiting from the Super 8, as it was in the championship before the Super 8 was even brought in.
Limerick football could be affected by this if they get to the last 8 because the chances of them beating the top teams such as Dublin, Kerry or Mayo at the moment are slim.
Nobody likes the term “weaker counties” but that is where we are and as far as progressing the development of weaker teams in the championship, we have now created and elitest end of season mini tournament that will inevitably see the same teams year after year bar a few surprise teams like Tipperary were last season.
With players walking away from the game at younger ages than ever before and the demands on inter county players enormous, GAA HQ missed an huge opportunity to recognise the newly formed Club Players Association.
This newly formed group is the back bone of the organisation and whether they like it or not, the cogs on the machine that is the GAA simply will not turn without the club players on board.
The first time the GPA (Gaelic Players Association) were asked about their views on the proposals came through by an email or Whats’ App message to the player representatives in counties, asking the players to vote all three motions proposed by Central Council in the GAA.
This only happened in early February which was six months after the rough draft was circulated. In the end the GPA members voted 70\% to 30\% against the Super 8 proposal. Had the GPA been on the case quicker, one would imagine a greater amount of votes against the proposal.
This just indicates how much of a lack of effort that the GPA put into informing their members of the proposal that the GAA Congress has made indicating the Super 8. In many aspects the GPA failed to acknowledge this to their members, a job that they are paid to do.
GPA members were not explained the proposal properly so how were they supposed to know exactly what they were voting on? Many players have come out and said this such as Tyrone’s Ronan Mc Namee who said ‘it didn’t even cross my mind; I suppose if anybody had my approach to it they wouldn’t be voting at all’.
The CPA had no opinion at all whatsoever because they were not given the chance to speak at the Congress. The motion came too soon after the organisation was brought together and formed, meaning that the CPA had not done anything to be acknowledged by the delegates at the time present.
While the GAA were able to ingore the CPA at this congress, one doubts they will be able to ignore them in the future. If anything, this congress has been a wake up call for the club players across the country. If you want to change the organisation, you must take action and unite.
Something that club players across the country have been doing in their droves. Over 600 Limerick GAA players have already signed up as members and the numbers are increasing all the time with an increase of over 100 in the past week alone.
The Super 8’s have also pricked the ears of many in the hurling fraternity as they justifiably fear that this new format will dominate the Summer and leave their code somewhat in the shade.
Henry Shefflin and Anthony Daly were the latest to express their concerns that hurling also needs to be kept in mind.
So where do we stand at the moment? We have 70\% of GPA members voting against the proposals, a CPA that was completely ignored but now growing so fast that it cannot be ignored anymore and serious concerns in hurling circles about the effect on their games.
Not an ideal situation when all things are considered. Will this Super 8 format do anything to encourage the counties in division 3 and 4 that they have a realistic chance or more importantly that their organisation even has their interests at heart?
Unfortunately not but we are where we are and counties like Limerick will simply have to make the best of it.