McConville says Burns GAA presidency could have heralded 'necessary change'

Larry McCarthy (left) talks to John Horan (right) at Saturday's Congress session at Croke Park
Larry McCarthy (left) will take over as GAA president from John Horan (right) at next year's Congress

Oisin McConville says Jarlath Burns' surprise defeat by Larry McCarthy in the GAA presidential election could delay "serious change" he believes is necessary within the association.

Burns was eventually beaten on the fourth count despite having 17 first-count votes than the New York hopeful.

McConville fears a drift towards semi-professionalism because of a lack of focus on the club game.

"I don't like the direction we are going," said McConville.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound on Sunday, McConville referred to recent comments by Gaelic Players Association chief executive Paul Flynn which some have interpreted as suggesting that a form of semi-professionalism is inevitable.

"I didn't like that because I don't think we're set up for that or anywhere close to being set up for that," added McConville, a former Armagh team-mate of Burns'.

"The intercounty game is thriving but the club game is suffering. That balance needs to be addressed pretty quickly."

Jarlath Burns was beaten in the fourth count in Friday's GAA presidential election
McConville believes a Burns presidency would have been positive for the GAA amid the ongoing concerns over Brexit and the stalled Casement Park project

Former Dublin player Flynn has consistently denied that the GPA wants the sport to move away from its amateur ethos but McConville is among pundits who remain suspicious of the player body's motives.

The former Armagh All-Ireland winner also believes the "time was right" for Ireland's largest sporting organisation to have an Ulster president given ongoing concerns over Brexit and the stalled Casement Park project.

The Crossmaglen man added that Burns' experience and knowledge, both inside and outside the GAA, made him the ideal man to take over from Dublin's John Horan next year.

"He's played club football, he's played county football. He's got a son playing county football. He's the headmaster of a school. He's sees the challenges at the coalface.

"He's been chairman of his club, secretary of his club, he's done all the jobs that you would expect for somebody like that.

"I thought it was time for somebody like Jarlath. Somebody who wasn't afraid to have an opinion and be forthright in those opinions."

Promised Burns votes do not materialise

Not for the first time in GAA presidential elections which are secret ballots, promised votes from various counties did not materialise for Burns in the final analysis and McConville had a wry take on that.

"Counties have their own delegates who are sent to Congress. A lot of times those delegates are expected to vote in a certain way. They arrive at Congress. Somebody bends their ear for an hour or two and all of a sudden that changes."

McConville's frustration with Congress was summed up by 90 delegates voting against a Tyrone motion which called for fourth officials to be given the power to inform referees of foul play they have witnessed during intercounty and club championship games.

The vote was passed but McConville was left scratching his head over why so many delegates would have been against the motion.

"For 90 people in the room not to back that motion, that's the worrying thing for me."

Tempers flared on the pitch on occasions but more serious violence broke out in the tunnel at half-time at Healy Park
Tyrone's Conor Meyler and James McCarthy scuffle during Saturday evening's game in Omagh

GAA will 'stamp down hard' after Omagh brawl

McConville also told BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound that he expects the GAA to "stamp down hard" following the half-time brawl in Saturday's Football League game between Tyrone and Dublin at Healy Park.

"If that was Tyrone and Donegal, Tyrone and Armagh, anybody else, we would be thinking that there would be serious repercussions. Dublin were as guilty as what Tyrone were. I think there will be repercussions," added McConville.

"A lot of the pictures are inconclusive but it wasn't handbags. It was proper fisticuffs and because of that, the GAA will be under pressure to take serious action.

"If they (the GAA) have more conclusive pictures than what we've seen, that's when problems arise for individual players."

Saturday's incidents arose as both sides attempted to make their way off the pitch by heading into the tight tunnel at Omagh and McConville believes a directive must be given which sees one team hanging back to allow their opponents to reach the dressing-rooms.

"We had a good thing going when one team stood aside and let the other team in. That seems to have waned. It's something that worked and it's something that needs to be enforced again."

Tyrone's Padraig Hampsey was black carded after the teams returned to the pitch for the second half but no other players received sanctions and the GAA will now be waiting for the arrival of referee Cormac Reilly's report.

The brawl brought back memories of similar scenes during a league game between the counties in 2006 which led to nine players being hit with disciplinary charges.

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