Offaly student hit the nail on the head when it comes to the GAA's Super 8s
An Offaly sports student has summed up the frustration of many with the GAA's new Super 8 structure.
The off-season in the inter-county game gives GAA heads some thinking time, a period of reflection when the dust settles on Jones' Road after All-Ireland final day.
The issue still abound in the hearts and minds of GAA folk is the behemoth that is the Super 8s. Edenderry woman, Roisín Hurley, a 4th year Recreation and Sport Management student at Waterford I.T, has tackled the difficult topic in an in-depth study as part of her degree.
Speaking about the logic of the idea, she begs the question, "why doesn't somebody think of the players?" Roisin, whose family is steeped in the GAA, with both her brothers currently involved in Edenderry GAA, has discussed the future of weaker counties, player burnout and money, of course.
The Super 8 structure was voted in at Congress by the GAA and will get its first outing in 2018. It involves the top eight teams in the country facing off in a round robin phase at the usual quarter-final stage of the championship. It results in more 'top level' games and more money for the GAA.
This is how it will take shape:
Group 1: Connacht champions, Munster champions, Ulster runner-up (or qualifier team that beats them in Round 4), Leinster runner-up (or qualifier team that beats them in round 4)
Group 2: Leinster champions, Ulster champions, Munster runner-up (or qualifier team that beats them in Round 4), Connacht runner-up (or qualifier team that beats them in round 4)
Each team will play an away game, a home game and a game at Croke Park. The top four teams will contest the semi-finals as the championship reverts to a more familiar guise for the final stages.
Roisín Hurley tackled the issue of money and the amounts the GAA stands to make from the extra games.
"The GAA, once known for its pride and passion, has become a dictatorship where player welfare is abused in order to generate more revenue for the back pockets of the people in the hierarchy of the GAA," she wrote.
"Even if this was set up for money, surely it’s time for players to benefit from the games financially," she added. Roisín went on to argue that money distributed to clubs and counties is not done so fairly, with Dublin, the strongest football team in the country, receiving ten times the funding of Kilkenny, the weakest footballing county.
"The Super 8s will automatically increase funding for the top teams while leaving the rest behind," Roisin argued.
Extending that point, the sports student argued that the Super 8s will serve up competitive games, but at the expense of weaker counties like our own who will find it nigh on impossible to crack the top table.
"Players will not want to play for their county anymore if it means putting in so much effort and having no chance of moving forward. When will the likes of Laois, Offaly or Leitrim get a chance to play in Croke Park?" she pondered.
She made the very real example of Offaly who will open the 2018 championship with a 50/50 game against Wicklow, before possibly meeting Dublin at the quarter-final stage, more than likely falling into the cesspool that is the qualifier system.
In more human terms, Roisín discussed player burnout, as well as the fact players' opinions were ignored. Two thirds of players disagreed with the Super 8s, while a similar proportion of delegates at the GAA Congress voted in favour of it. The Edenderry woman argued that this shows the deep disconnect between players and Congress.
"In recent years there has been plenty of talk and issues raised on player overload. Burnout in the GAA is so common given the level of commitment and time put into training and matches by the players," Roisín wrote.
"Some players balance both club and county, which means they train 3-5 times a week or maybe even more. They travel from college/work back to training or county grounds just to ensure they get a slot in the starting 15. Teams implement drinking bans, study is put on hold, family events are missed as well as socialising with peers."
"Do you think this is enough as it is?" she asks. She criticises the GAA's logic of heaping more pressure and workload on these players with a mere hope they don’t get injured. She questions how the organisation can tackle the issue of burnout while at the same time asking players to do more.
Roisin's study concluded with a note agreed by many, but seemingly ignored by the chosen few at Congress: "The back bone of the GAA is the players themselves and without them there would be no Gaelic Athletics Association, and yet their opinion on how the championship should be structured is irrelevant."
"Is it time to strike and fight for equality and their rights after being disrespected by Congress?" she wonders.
Roisín tables a tiered championship system as a solution, allowing different levels for different teams, similar to the senior, intermediate and junior structure. In summing up, she says something like this would give all teams something to play for - al teams, not just the so-called Super 8s.
Do you agree?
You can read Roisín's full article by clicking here.
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