Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

THE ALL-IRELAND senior football championship underwent its most radical overhaul today since the introduction of the qualifiers back in October 2000.

A trilogy of motions to reform the championship structures were passed by Congress today in Croke Park by receiving the necessary two-thirds majority.

It includes the introduction of the ‘Super 8′ round-robin at the quarter-final stage, the All-Ireland finals moving forward to the month of August and the introduction of extra-time to all championship games apart from provincial and All-Ireland finals.

It couldn’t have gone much better for the GAA’s director general Paraic Duffy, who gave birth to the ‘Super 8′ format. The round robin series will be trialled on a three-year basis between 2018 and 2020.

This was very much Duffy’s hour.

“It’s a great vote,” the Ard Stiúrthóir told Newstalk today. “Sixty-six and two-thirds is a very high bar to reach and I’m pleased.

“There’s been a great debate within the association for the past eight months about this. We’ve read a lot, talked a lot and discussed it a lot. I think it’s a good democratic decision.

“We’re trying something new and if it doesn’t work out I’ll be the first to say let’s move on to something else. I think it’s a sensible decision by the GAA. Let’s try and see how it goes.

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“None ever claims it’s a silver bullet, but we have to be prepared to try something. I think this is worth the experiment.

“If after three years we find it hasn’t delivered we had hoped it would deliver, then we’ll try something else. That’s how you improve, constantly trying to make things a bit better.”

The Club Players Association were strongly opposed the ‘Super 8′ proposal, and were not granted the opportunity to speak in front of Congress today.

Duffy countered that club players will benefit from some of today’s reforms despite their concern.

“I think the voice of club players has been heard today in the motions that were passed. There’s no doubt about that.

“The motions in relation to extra-time, the Christy Ring winner (competing in the) All-Ireland championship. They were for club players. I think it’s very clear that the club players were heard.”

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Dermot Earley, the CEO of the Gaelic Players Association, was highly disappointed with the decision.

“We surveyed each and every panel in the country and it came back quite unanimous that they weren’t in favour of this competition,” he said.

“I think the reason being was that the so-called lower tiered counties felt there was nothing in it for them.

“It was disappointing from my point of view that our inter-county players, the actual motion which will affect them the most, was ignored.

“They might have said they consulted with everybody but they didn’t go down and actually ask the players, which is what we did. I do take your point that there was a little delay in getting (our view) out there, with the transition and everything that’s going on.

“But at the same time it was quite clear that the players came back 70% were not in favour of this.

“I’m just disappointed that voice was ignored.”

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