Change or not to change - that is the big GAA question in Meath

Story by Conall Collier

Thursday, 11th January, 2018 8:50pm

Change or not to change - that is the big GAA question in Meath

Two-in-a-row Keegan Cup-winning manager Colm O'Rourke urged Meath GAA Co Board delegates not to change the format of the club football championships.

Delegates at Monday night's Co Board meeting in Dunganny discussed another set of proposals for changes to the structure of the senior football championship.

Those proposed changes, if adopted, will have knock-on implications for the IFC and the JFC competitions and the delegates will convene again at Dunganny on Tuesday 23rd January to make a final decision.

The delegates will have three options at the next meeting, 
1. Make no changes and retain the current format

2. Ratify the Co Board proposal that will see three teams relegated from the SFC and five from the IFC at the end of the 2018 competitions.
3. Ratify the joint-proposal from Dunboyne / St Brigid's to reduce the SFC and IFC by three teams and five teams respectively over a three-year period (2018 - 2020).

The joint-proposal from Dunboyne / St Brigid's was put forward by Dunboyne clubman Conor O'Donoghue who outlined the structure for a 16-team SFC and IFC and a 19-team JFC as well as a District FC for players from non-senior clubs. 

The plan would be implemented over a three-year period and the introduction of the District Championship would facilitate combined teams from non-senior clubs.

“The standard in the SFC is not of a sufficient quality at the moment and there are many good players at the JFC grade that will never get a chance to play at a higher level under the current structures,” stated O'Donoghue who managed the Meath junior team to a Leinster title in 2017.

Michael Heery from St Brigid's supported the proposal and gave the perspective of a rural junior club.

“I hope that the delegates will take these porposals back to their clubs and that when we convene here again to finalise the plans that these proposals will be ratified,” stated the St Brigid's official who is also a former Athletics Ireland president and was the driving force in bringing the two strands of Irish athletics, BLE and NACA, together.

Co Board chairman Peter O'Halloran suggested that changes had to be made and he put forward the Co Board proposal that would see the bottom team in each SFC group this year relegated to the IFC. 

“This is the third year that proposals have been put forward for changes to the structures of the football championships and this is a serious matter for the clubs,” stated the Co Board chairman.

“We will discuss this tonight and the delegates have to take this back to their clubs for further discussion before making a decision,” he added.

“At county level we are not that far away from making the Super Eights and we need to make some changes to our club football championships.

“We will have to play club championship games during April this year, there is a bigger squeeze on our club competitions and we will have to cater for that.

“Because of the 13-day rule for county teams there will be very few chances of playing club games in June and July.

For this year, we will get our competitions completed if we drop the knock-out cups, but a spate of bad weather could cause problems, it's that tight,” he added.

There was support for the joint-proposal (Dunboyne / St Brigid's) from Dunshaughlin delegate Paddy Ward and Donaghmore / Ashbourne delegate Ciaran Benville while Gaeil Colmcille delegate Ultan Fitzpatrick supported the Co Board proposal.

There was also substantial opposition to any change with a number of delegates totally against the proposals.

“I doubt very much if reducing the number of teams will actually improve the standard of football, it's a myth,” stated Simonstown Gaels manager Colm O'Rourke.

“I dont see that the proposals will bring about an improvement in the standard of football, the District FC certainly has some merit, but I think it would be wrong to reduce the amount of championship games that clubs would get,” he added.

Nobber delegate Larry McEntee and Carnaross delegate Malachy Plunkett supported the views expressed by O'Rourke.

Plunkett suggested that the problems in relation to the standard of players needed to be addressed at under-age level.


CO BOARD PROPOSAL

In 2019 there shall be 16 teams in both SFC and IFC. 
In 2018 only three teams will be relegated from the SFC to IFC for 2019. These three teams shall be the bottom team in each of the three groups A, B, C. 
In 2018 only five teams shall be relegated from the IFC to JFC for 2019. Three teams shall be the bottom team in each of the three groups A, B, C, the other two teams shall come from play-offs between the teams finishing fifth in each IFC group. 
Any championship finals ending in a draw in 2018 only shall be decided by extra-time after the first game and the knock-out competitions will not be played.


DUNBOYNE / ST BRIGID'S

The joint-proposal arrives at the same numbers (16 SFC and IFC teams) but over a three-year period.
The District FC is an extra addition that is proposed for 2020 with eight teams formed to compete in two groups during October following the conclusion of the IFC and JFC.

At least two clubs that are currently in the senior ranks would also be eligible for this competition by 2020 as 

they would have been relegated.

The make up of the eight Districts cannot be finalised at this stage and it would only be after the conclusion of the 2019 competitions that the eligible teams would be evident.

AMENDMENT

No change (proposed by Colm O'Rourke and seconded by Larry McEntee)

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