GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
John Horan: 'Everybody has been crying out for tiers' in Gaelic football championship
Last Updated: 02/07/19 11:17pm
GAA President John Horan discussed a range of issues surrounding the association on Tuesday, including the introduction of a two-tier championship in Gaelic football.
In recent days, two proposals for a tiered championship structure which will be put before October's Special Congress were announced, with a view for one to be introduced for 2020.
Tiers have caused much debate down through the years, but Horan is eager to see it through.
Subscribe to GAA alerts!
We'll send you push notifications so you'll receive all of the big GAA news!
"Everybody has been crying out for this to happen, we're now getting near to getting this over the line," he began. "Now you see people are flipping their stories and their attitudes.
"I can only chair the meeting and everybody put their hand up in favour of it. I can only go by what the feeling on the ground is."
Detractors have argued that a B competition wouldn't garner much interest amongst players and supporters alike. The GAA supremo feels the stipulation of a north-south split at the beginning of the second-tier competition could counteract that.
"Certainly the first round if not the first two rounds would be on a north-south basis," he explained.
"We wouldn't have a Derry going to play Wexford. You might have a Derry playing a team closer to them in locality. You keep that local rivalry to give that bit of momentum early on.
"If you had eight matches and they were all crisscrossing across the country, supporters may not travel and you wouldn't have that rivalry factor and the novelty factor wouldn't necessarily draw people."
The other major order of business for the Special Congress at the end of the year is the experimental rules, which were trialled during the 2019 National League.
Having experienced various degrees of success, it remains to be seen which rules will make the cut and be fully implemented in 2020.
However, while the trial on outlawing a back-pass to the goalkeeper was scrapped following the preseason tournaments earlier this year, Horan said it could still be installed.
"A proposal on changing the rule doesn't have to be experimented on," said the Dublin native.
"The stats on it, of the 20 games that were analysed for the National League, there was an average of 10 back passes to the goalkeeper. If you think about it, if you take out the goalkeeper as the safety valve behind the defence, it then allows the team to press forward much more and actually draw them out instead of going back behind.
"It was unfortunate that we didn't get it into the mix at the particular time, but it's there for debate now and it will be put out for people to talk about.
"I'm not saying this is going to happen - I'm only saying it's out there for debate."
The apparent inequality in funding to different counties has also been a hot topic recently, particularly in the aftermath of Dublin's ninth consecutive Leinster success.
"The funding going into Dublin is to maintain participation levels in the organisation, which is key," said Horan.
"There are other factors that play into Dublin's success. One is a very competitive and successful games programme which is driven, in fairness, by the capacity abilities that they have in the county."
He added that there are being efforts made to redress any funding imbalance:
"Before Páraic [Duffy] left (as Director General), Páraic, myself and John Costello (CEO of Dublin GAA) met and there was €200,000 of Dublin's funding transferred into the East Leinster project to give that a kick-start and momentum, and as Tom Ryan alluded to last week, the gap is closing. Dublin's is not increasing.
"It is increasing in other counties."
There have been express safeguards in place for any tiered championship in football, with commitments for the competition to have designated television deals, sponsorships, etc.
However, many are questioning if hurling's lower divisions currently in place could be promoted better, particularly after last Sunday's Joe McDonagh Cup decider clashed with the Munster final.
"Lots of matches clash," lamented Uachtarán CLG.
"Leinster approached Munster and asked them if they'd have it on an alternate basis, one on Saturday evening and one Sunday and flip every second year.
"Munster said no, they wouldn't move off the Sunday slot. If that had happened, Joe McDonagh would have got what it got.
"The Joe McDonagh got its day in Croke Park, it was great joy for everyone."
Sky Sports' live GAA coverage continues next Saturday, with Tyrone vs Cavan and Mayo vs Galway in the All-Ireland Football Qualifiers.