O'Neill: Football does not deserve bad press30/04/2012 - 11:21:47
New GAA President Liam O'Neill has backed the views of Tyrone boss Mickey Harte that Gaelic football does not deserve the bad press it gets.
The Laois native says that his comments in relation to negatives in Gaelic football at GAA Congress a fortnight ago were taken out of context.
"I'm on the record before as saying that football is a great game, it's a very skilful game and it's a game that needs to be nurtured," said O'Neill.
"Despite the fact that others put a different interpretation on what I said a fortnight ago, my attitude to football has always been positive.
"The only comment I made on football was that when it is passed around and when it is defensive that's boring.
"Some people have said that I said it in my Congress speech. My Congress speech is on the web and I certainly didn't say that.
"I responded to a question in the audience, and I just said that one aspect of Gaelic football was boring, but hasn't it been amazing how that story has been treated since and it has just been a real eye opener for me.
"I still intend to make my contribution to what is a wonderful game even better."
That contribution will see one of 32 new committees announced by O'Neill at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon dealing with a wide range of areas, with a Football Review Group set to form part of this structure.
Former Offaly All-Ireland winning manager and journalist Eugene Magee will spearhead this group, which O'Neill is keen to stress will be independent in nature.
Magee was contacted last Thursday night to chair the committee and he will meet O'Neill and GAA Director General Paraic Duffy in the coming days to flesh out members of his committee.
It is expected that the committee will have representation from each of the four provinces, and involve those who are of 'independent mind' and outside the realm of county chairmen and other elected officers.
The committee will only meet for one year, at the end of which a report will be produced and debate on the proposals will take place over the following year.
O'Neill says that the appointment of Magee and former All-Ireland final referee Pat McEnaney as chairmen of the Football and Referees committees respectively is an important step forward.
"If you want things done properly you either go for people who are brave and independent and will take the thing a different direction or else you stagnate," he explained.
"I wanted to make the point all through those committees and I will be making the point all through my Presidency that I want new people in.
"I want new ideas, I want fresh ideas and I want people who haven't been heard before to be heard. I want this organisation to open up its mind and listen to people.
"I will give a lead on that and try to freshen up the organisation. The really fantastic thing was the number of people who said yes when asked and were delighted to serve the organisation.
"If you are talking to inter-county managers their focus is directly on their job and you couldn't expect it any differently, but this group has a wider brief and the game of Gaelic football which is a great game. If it can be improved and made more attractive to the young people, then that's their brief."
O'Neill recalls the trial introduction of experimental rules in relation to discipline during the early stages of 2009, which almost met with approval.
"You have to remember that the disciplinary rule campaign, while it was ultimately unsuccessful in being accepted by over two-thirds of delegates at GAA Congress, it did eliminate the neck high tackle from Gaelic football.
"It did eliminate the frontal charge, it did eliminate the rolling around the ground. Those fouls were ridiculed by the crowd when it saw that they were fouls and it did eliminate them from the game. Surely nobody could say that was a bad outcome?
"The very fact that we didn't succeed in that campaign should be a reassurance to people who worry about change. The organisation put together very solid proposals. They almost got two-thirds majority and they didn't. That's democracy, so there was no tampering with Gaelic games at all.
"It's an amazing perception out there. We actually didn't change Gaelic football at all. We tried to change the discipline to try to improve the games and if you remember we were very positive about football in that. I don't say this lightly."
He added: "My attitude has always been positive and in that campaign we said we were protecting the skilful player, we were allowing the skilful player to play with punishing the person who perpetrated the fouls.
"We wanted to speed the game up and make it more attractive and keep the ball moving forward, so that was positivity the whole way.
"How anybody could misinterpret our intentions on that I just don't know. I just fell a bit short. But I think a lot of the positivity stayed and Gaelic football improved."
O'Neill cites the 2009 Allianz Football League game which marked the GAA's 125th Anniversary celebrations as a match which showed the then experimental rules worked.
"I think the Tyrone-Dublin game under lights in that campaign was one of the better games of football played out there (Croke Park). I think that was generally accepted."
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