As yesterday’s media briefing in the Croke Park Museum wore on, the questions dug deeper into the hypotheticals.
n the place where the GAA’s history and tradition are enshrined and curated, with Larry McCarthy and Tom Ryan’s public backing for proposal ‘B’, the likelihood of the organisation cutting loose from the provincial roots that have sustained it for well over a century became much more tangible.
Their public backing merited a deeper dive into the consequences of what would happen should motion 19, as it will be known on Saturday, be adopted. It won’t be definitive. The GAA’s voting system is complex and significant opposition remains, but it could influence those undecided counties to spin the wheel of change.
And the truth is the GAA haven’t gone too far down the road of ‘what ifs’ just now. There’s already been one seismic change recently with the adoption of the split season. If there’s to be another with the complete overhaul of the football championship, then they’ll get to work on that too.
Issues around what will happen with existing sponsors and commercial partners and what sort of guarantees are available surrounding the exposure and the promotion of the Tailteann Cup are yet to be ironed out.
As ard-stiúrthóir Ryan put it, they will get to work on “whatever hand they are dealt” by Saturday’s Special Congress.
With regards to the football championship, there are essentially three options before delegates this weekend.
Proposal ‘A’, which sees the redrawing of provincial boundaries into four groups of eight, has garnered no support and may not even see a vote. Proposal ‘B’, the league-based championship model, is staging a remarkable recovery, having not been given much of a chance a few weeks ago.
Should it fail to make the 60pc, the 2022 SFC will not be what has been misleadingly called the ‘status quo’. Effectively the back door will be re-introduced, but crucially so will the Tailteann Cup. As one GAA official put it: “No matter what happens, there will be a Tailteann Cup next year.”
What was clear is that there is an appetite for change. For an organisation so often accused of intransigence, its senior figures were in no doubt that even if change doesn’t come on Saturday, it is only a little further down the track.
“I think there’s a momentum for change, as Tom has alluded to,” GAA president McCarthy said. “I think why not go and do it all in one? Yeah, next year is going to be historic, anyway. We’re in change mode, perhaps why not change it to the extent that it’s proposed. I wouldn’t have any issue with it. I think we can mobilise the championship, mobilise the Tailteann Cup and mobilise the system as proposed. I wouldn’t see any problems with doing it.”
Ryan added: “People would like to see a change and (should the proposals fail to make 60pc) I think all it will mean is that the particular change that’s on the menu is not what people like.
“That’s fine if that’s the way that goes, but the responsibility still doesn’t go away with that. We come back again with . . . we won’t lose heart if that’s the way it goes. We will come back again with some other ideas.”
They reiterated their position that there will be no major financial loss or gain no matter what delegates opt for and moved to reassure units they will be supported in much the same way.
“(We’ve taken) an association-wide view of things, it’s not a provincial versus Central Council or Ulster versus Munster.
“We are looking at what the resources will be that will be available to all of us. And we know what our responsibilities are as the national governing body of things and we have always lived up to those. And we’ve said, not just to Ulster but to any of the provinces or counties – and we have met with all of them over the last few weeks – is the level of resources to the broader association will be broadly the same.
“Our responsibilities to you will be approximately the same and we will still live up to those responsibilities.”