Super 8 is the GAA’s new marketing term borrowed obviously from rugby’s ‘Super 15’. Like G8 (now G7 after they threw Russia out) which is made up of eight powerful countries in the world, the Super 8 will comprise the strongest eight GAA counties in Ireland. It will replace the current quarter final format.
Two groups of four will compete in a round-robin format. which will mean two extra games. Teams will have three games in three weeks followed by semi-finals and a final.
It’s the biggest change in championship architecture since the qualifiers were introduced in 2001. Coupled with this, Congress voted to move the All-Ireland finals forward from September to August. Apparently, this shift in dates is meant to facilitate club players and club championship. At the same Congress, a motion to recognise the Club Players’ Association was withdrawn after some gentle persuasion from many delegates who dismissed the CPA as an upstart organisation who had better not interfere with the GAA’s 133 years-old structure and processes. Not yet anyway.
So, the CPA live to die another day while the strong inter county GAA teams will become stronger and the club players are still left in limbo. The GAA heavies are patting themselves on their backs for a great day’s work but all is not well at the GAA grassroots. The inter-county players, the club players and club officials are not happy. After the controversial changes were passed social media was on the GAA’s case. Those people from the so-called weaker counties and club players alike were up in arms.
So really, what’s all the fuss about? It is time to face reality. We always had strong football and hurling counties and this will never change. From time to time a team will make a breakthrough but without continued financial backing that same team will not sustain high standards. We can pretend that we are still an amateur organisation. We are not. Money dictates. Ask any treasurer in any junior club how much finance has to be raised for survival.
Inter-county teams demand astronomical figures to compete. Look at Donegal GAA who recently appointed Anthony Molloy as the county’s ambassador, a role where Anthony will raise income for us. This is an absolutely necessary appointment and Molloy is the best person we could ask for to fulfil this positon. Most counties have such a marketing/sales appointee.
Gaelic games have changed dramatically in recent years in respect of team managers’ approach to preparation and play. We cannot blame the top ranking GAA officials for this. Managers, coaches and the players demand high standards and they themselves have raised the bar. Specialist and expert coaches and medical staff are a prerequisite.
Contrary to common consent, I like the idea of the Super 8. As a spectator, I want to see the best teams pitted against each other. It is a fair system. If the weaker counties are not up to it, then get up to pace. Donegal will never be a Kilkenny in terms of hurling and vice-versa unless monies are ploughed into underage structures and counties buy into change. Those of us in the GAA don’t like change. We’re conservative. I was talking to a former Donegal inter-county player last week who played in the late nineties. We agreed that the modern style of football is not we are used to but, it’s there and we have to accept it. Teams are not playing to entertain us. They are there to win. Soccer has been like this for eons yet nobody complains. Nearly all of us have a favourite soccer team but we don’t criticise our team when they string 20 passes together in defence without going anywhere. Gaelic football has adopted many patterns from other sports. We need to get on with it.
The month of August is going to be dedicated to the Super 8 from 2018. Club players are not happy. As a former manager of many clubs, I always found it difficult to field a strong team in the month of August because the lads wanted to go on holidays or to concerts. Well if their county is one of the super 8 they can take the month of August off. I really cannot see why there is so much discontent.
By late summer, many teams have injuries and I believe that having a relatively quiet August will allow these players to recover. Not all people will be pleased all of the time but I genuinely believe that the GAA is moving in the right direction.
For a long time now they recognise that theirs is a business and far from being an association without perspective who lives in the dark ages. The CPA is a young organisation and is a great initiative. In time their voice will be heard. At the end of the day, if we don’t have the players we have nothing. Going on strike was mooted by certain individuals but this would take courage. The strong counties have been silent during this furore. A strike would not suit them. The rumbling will continue but the lines have been drawn. Another chapter has been written in the annals of the GAA. I’m all for it.
With all the debate in respect of change, our Donegal senior team is adapting to their own change in terms of personnel so far this season. Cavan provided little resistance to a super Donegal display in Breffni Park last Saturday evening. It is so uplifting to see how the fresh faces are fitting in and acquitting themselves so well in inter-county football. Yes, survival in Division 1 is important but I’m sure that team manager Rory Gallagher is more pleased with the team’s performances. Our only slip-up was the Kerry game where our full-back line struggled. Since Neil McGee’s return that line of defence has improved dramatically. We are in a good place just now and I feel that things will get better.
The whole county is looking forward to our next game on the 18th March in Ballybofey against Tyrone. Scores will be settled and markers will be set. I’ll tackle this battle next week but for now keep the faith!