Fighting elitism, curbing the excesses associated with the inter-county game and a significant refocus on the club are among the priorities for the five GAA presidential candidates.
Each posed the same set of questions in Saturday’s Irish Examiner ahead of next month’s vote at Annual Congress, Jim Bolger, Jarlath Burns, Larry McCarthy, Jerry O’Sullivan, and Mick Rock have acknowledged recent reports such as those completed by the Economic Social Research Institute and the GAA’s own fixtures review task-force.
Bolger believes a “blind march to elitism” has threatened the traditional and necessary connection between club and county, while Burns and Rock are keen to reduce the amount of expenditure on inter-county teams.
Rock adds: “Ultimately, a shorter county season would not only provide inter-county players with some respite, but would afford clubs something approaching parity of esteem.”
In terms of promoting club activity, McCarthy favours the fixtures review committee proposal to designate one week for exclusive club activity in the months of June, July and August – “This will give certainty of fixture, as is right, during the better months of the year, and will reduce some of the tension that exists between club and county fixtures.”
Burns and O’Sullivan envisage finding a common denominator in the structure of county championships, Burns suggesting a championship and league template for all counties to follow while O’Sullivan backs the proposal to limit senior and intermediate championship to a maximum of 16 teams. “The mantra remains definite dates,” says O’Sullivan.
Burns also maintains the GPA should help ensure a training cap of two nights a week until May and a ban on pre-Christmas training. He claims the club game has become more attractive to players because it “rewarding and challenging experiences”.
O’Sullivan seeks to be a unifying leader while Bolger and Rock want a greater study into the negative impact of the inter-county game.
Burns feels if rural Ireland is under threat so too is the GAA.
A lecturer in sports marketing in New Jersey, Bishopstown-born McCarthy reiterates he would move to Ireland from New Jersey to take up the role were he to be successful in becoming the first overseas president in the February 29 vote.
You can read the full interviews with the five GAA presidential candidates in Saturday’s Examiner Sport.