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Opinion: GAA delegates talking out both sides of their mouths

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by Adam Moynihan

Like a lot of people, I was disheartened by the result of last Saturday’s vote on Plan B. I genuinely believe it would have been fantastic for the game of football. It had its flaws, of course it did, but it would have been so much better than the status quo.

What I found really frustrating about this episode were the inconsistencies in delegates’ arguments against the league championship proposal. Speaker after speaker said they were for change, that change was necessary, before asserting that this change was the wrong change. Well, what is the right change? The change that will suit every single stakeholder?

I truly doubt that such a panacea exists. Should we not focus on improving the situation rather than perfecting it?

HOPES AND DREAMS

For different reasons, I was disappointed with every county that spoke out against the proposal. Take Fermanagh, for example, members of the Ulster bloc who voted against Plan B apparently out of loyalty and attachment to the Ulster Championship. Tiernach Mahon of Fermanagh GAA said that "this motion has the potential to destroy the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of Fermanagh people".

With all due respect to the people of Fermanagh, they haven’t won a single Ulster Championship in 133 years of competition, let alone an All-Ireland. If their hopes, dreams and aspirations have survived up to this point, surely they can survive a different type of championship.

Mayo GAA Chairman Liam Moffatt raised concerns about the sixth-place team in Division 1 not qualifying for the knockout phase while teams from lower divisions potentially would (via a playoff). Mayo are one of the best teams in Gaelic football and they have been over the course of the past 10-15 years. And here they are, worried about finishing sixth?

The fact that the Kerry County Board also flagged this sixth-place issue didn’t sit well with me as a Kerry supporter. What happened to that famous Kerry self-confidence?

In the last five “normal” iterations of the league (2016-2020), the team who finished sixth had a total of seven points or less. Basically, to finish fifth a team needs to win four games out of seven. And in three of the last five seasons, the fifth-place team only won three of their matches. If a team fails to win four or more championship matches in quick succession, they really don't have a right to be talking about an All-Ireland.

BACK SEAT

I have to say I haven’t been too impressed with Kerry’s attitude throughout this process. As the game’s most successful county, we should be leaders. We should be setting an example. Instead, our delegates took a back seat.

First they said they didn’t know how they would be voting, that they were waiting to be swayed by arguments on the day. As many of us predicted, there was nothing noteworthy said on the day that hadn’t been said in public over the past few weeks and months.

Addressing Congress, Tim Murphy urged the GAA to effectively kick the motion down the road. Delay the vote so there could be more discussion on the topic. A ‘no’ vote at this stage would be a “travesty”, he said. “All the work of the committee would go to waste.”

Yet Kerry reportedly proceeded to vote ‘no’ anyway (we don’t know for sure because there is zero transparency in these ballots). And then, immediately after, the Kerry GAA chair told the Irish Examiner that he was “very confident” that a tweaked Proposal B would pass in February.

The bottom line for me is this: Kerry players wanted Plan B. Kerry supporters, from what I can discern, also wanted Plan B. Tim Murphy assured us that the Kerry delegation would vote based on what was right for Kerry football. If “Kerry football” is not the team and the fans, then what is it?

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Relegation battle has town divided

By Sean Moriarty This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town. After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle […]

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By Sean Moriarty

This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town.

After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle that is sure to divide the town.

In sporting terms, the outcome of the big game, set for December 5, is simple enough. The winner stays in the Senior Championship next season and the losers will have to play in the Intermediate Championship.

Fans of the black and amber or the green and white face an anxious week. Winning the county title is one thing – consigning your cross town rivals to second division football in football is altogether a bigger prize.

Senior officials from both clubs are being very guarded on a potential outcome as both sides know the significance of this play off.

“It is a pity that two Killarney clubs, with a long tradition of playing football in the top tier, find themselves in the position of having to play off to avoid relegation,” Matt O’Neill, Cathaoirleach of Dr Crokes, told the Killarney Advertiser.

“Both teams will fight tooth and nail to stay in the senior ranks. I am confident that on Sunday week our lads will do themselves and the club proud, as always, and give their all in the quest to keep the black and amber to the fore.”

Crokes are based off the Lewis Road with Legion a short distance away on the other side of the bypass.

“Everyone has an opinion on this,” Legion PRO, Elaine O’Donoghue, told the Killarney Advertiser. “Both sides will be nervous – may the best team win. There are a lot of questions, are the Crokes suffering after defeat to Kerins O’Rahillys [in the semi-final]? Are our lads suffering after losing to St Brendan’s for the third year in a row?”

Every football fan will be keeping a close eye on next weekend’s Intermediate County Final too which takes place on December 4.

The winners of the match between Beaufort and Tralee side Na Gael will be automatically promoted to replace the losers of the Killarney play-off in the Senior Championship next season.

Should Beaufort prevail, a (relatively) local team could replace a town team in the top flight.

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68% of fans say penalty shootouts ‘not right’ for Gaelic football

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by Adam Moynihan

Local Gaelic football supporters are largely against the practice of deciding matches with penalty shootouts, a poll carried out by the Killarney Advertiser can reveal.

Over two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed said they don’t think that penalties are “right” for the GAA with the remaining 32% standing on the other side of the fence.

Traditionally exclusive to the game of soccer, penalty shootouts were first introduced to Kerry GAA competitions in 2020 as a method of settling fixtures “on the day”. This was deemed necessary as there was less time for replays due to the profound effect the coronavirus pandemic had on last year’s sporting calendar.

A number of high-profile Kerry club matches have gone to penalties since they were introduced, including last season’s County League final between Austin Stacks and Rathmore, last month’s Kerry SFC Round 1 match between Legion and Spa, and Saturday’s county semi-final between Stacks and St Brendan’s.

Stacks emerged victorious in that televised last four clash as former Kerry player Kieran Donaghy scored the winning kick to send the Tralee club through to the final.

Before penalty shootouts became the norm, drawn GAA matches either went to a replay or to extra-time and then a replay if necessary.

Sorting a match out on the day is now commonplace, although some observers have voiced concerns about introducing what is effectively a soccer exercise to Gaelic games. When asked for their thoughts on penalties, a number of respondents to our survey made the same or similar observations.

“Penalties do not encapsulate the basic skills of Gaelic football,” one reader said. “Kicking from the hand is the key fundamental skill of the sport so that seems a more fair and apt way to decide a game.”

Another fan commented: “Penalties are for soccer. Marks are for Aussie Rules. Can we come up with anything ourselves?”

On the other hand, some respondents said that penalties were “fine” and a few suggested that they be used for any game bar a final.

Kerry GAA have confirmed that the upcoming county final and relegation playoff will go to replays if the sides are level after 60 minutes. However, next Saturday’s intermediate final between Na Gaeil and Beaufort will go all the way to penalties if required.

OTHER OPTIONS

When asked to select the “best” alternative method of deciding a Gaelic football match from a list provided by the Killarney Advertiser, over 40% of the people surveyed opted for a free-taking shootout from 35 metres.

‘More extra-time’ was the second most popular option with 23.61% of the vote.

An additional period of ‘next score wins’ was next up on just under 20%, with a 1 v 1 ice-hockey-style shootout, which would see the kicker carry the ball in hand before shooting for goal, was selected by 16% of supporters.

Whether or not the GAA are open to changing things up is uncertain. For the time-being at least, it appears as though football matches will continue to be decided using this controversial method.

Killarney Advertiser Penalty Shootout Poll (carried out online on November 23/24)

Are penalty shootouts right for Gaelic football?

Yes 31.94%

No 68.06%

If a replay is not possible, which of these alternative methods of settling a match is best:

Free-taking shootout from 35 metres 40.28%​

More extra time 23.61%

Next score wins 19.44%

1 v 1 ice-hockey-style shootout (ball in hand) 16.67%

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