Páraic Duffy, who was appointed Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA in February 2008, announced on Wednesday that he will step down from his role next March. By the time he leaves, having spent 10 years in the job, he told Seán O’Rourke on Thursday’s Today programme, the organisation will be a very different one from when he first sat in his office in Croke Park.
“When I came in… one of the first things we did was, we devised a fairly elaborate strategic plan and of course, no sooner was the plan complete than the economy went down the tubes.”
When he took up the role, he stated that he was going to be a voice for clubs in the GAA. Seán wondered if he had succeeded in that aim.
“I think there has been a focus from Croke Park on clubs… We are more tuned in to clubs and the needs of clubs. And that’s what the future of the GAA is. We’ve got to keep the clubs strong.”
Seán asked Páraic if he envisioned the kind of GAA we have now when he started as Director General. Was, for instance, the notion of no All-Ireland finals in September something he could have thought would happen? “That,” Páraic told him, “came out of the club debate, really, and the need to meet the needs of clubs.” People will see what a positive development it is next year, Páraic said. The idea is that by bringing the All-Ireland finals into August, most counties will be out of the football and hurling championships by the start of July, leaving them much more time for club matches.
Back to the county game, and Seán asked Páraic to walk us through the new arrangements, which from the next championship season will see so-called Super 8s in footballs and a variation of that system in hurling. There has been particular concern expressed about the effect of the new structure on hurling, but Páraic firmly believes the game will be better for it:
“We need more good hurling games. Hurling is a fantastic game, but as of now, we have about 10 or 11 championship games in the year that attract public interest.”
But what about the profile that the GAA Championship enjoys in September, just as the English football season kicks off? From 2018, that will be gone entirely. The new structure will do away with it.
“It’s two weeks of a difference. The All-Ireland final next year will be, as it happens, on the 2 September, which is two weeks earlier… I think that’s a minor difference.”
What Páraic wants us to take away from the new structure is that there will be far more big games during the course of the summer. And for GAA fans, that’s got to be a good thing, right? It’s hard to argue with his logic when he says that:
“I think 18 to 20 high-profile games will do far, far more for the promotion of the games than an extra two weeks in September.”
Kerry legend Colm “The Gooch” Cooper’s testimonial in Dublin at the end of this month is a first for a GAA player and it’s something that has attracted a fair share of controversy. Páraic told Seán that, while The Gooch’s testimonial doesn’t break any of the GAA’s rules, the association would not be supporting it. Seán asked him in what way Cooper’s testimonial was different from a player publishing an autobiography. Páraic’s response:
“If you do an autobiography, or do some punditry, you’re not taking funds that could go to the GAA.”
“It is against the ethos of the GAA to run a dinner from which an individual benefits.”
Colm Cooper’s testimonial dinner is scheduled to take place on 27 October.
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