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Harbinson disappointed by treatment of GPA

LENNY Harbinson, the former Antrim manager, has a strong opinion on this weekend’s motions that are going to congress.

The Belfast man believes that the GPA have been treated poorly based on dismissals of their mandate. He also says that change needs to happen to the championship because the format are not helping the weaker counties. Furthermore he believes that the GAA should have shown greater leadership.

Harbinson said: “I have listened to the debates. In relation to the traditionalists, we have had the provincial system which I think is not fit for purpose. Not taking anything away from Kerry’s great achievements, but they played two games in Munster, then went into an All-Ireland semi-final, while teams in Leinster and Ulster have to play four games to get to the same stage. No matter what you think, that is a flawed system, no matter how long it has been in place.”

Harbinson went on to suggest that the format has repeatedly created mismatches.

“I was involved in a game with Antrim against Tyrone. We lost by 17 points that day. That didn’t do Tyrone any favours that day, and it certainly didn’t do Antrim any favours either. Antrim lost to Armagh this year, albeit they put up a good show in the first half. But these margins of defeat, do not help anyone. You go around the provinces and you see the same.

“For me, that’s the evidence that there is an imbalance. So it was crying out for change, and change has been slow.”

His second point is that the leadership at Croke Park has not met the standards he expected.

“I work in BT. People at ground level do not set strategy. It is almost what is happening at Croke Park. Larry McCarthy is a business man so he would have a good idea of how organisations should be run. For me it is up to Central council to set leadership.”

The Task Force was set up to put forward proposals for the Championship structure. They put out their proposals in 2019, and these formats make the foundations of the motions that are being voted on this weekend.

They include re-aligning the provincial competitions so there are four teams of eight, and also using the league to decide championship fixtures.

Harbinson said: “If you take split season it has had benefits but it was forced upon us because of Covid. We have to take strong decisions. Would split season have happened if we had been left to our own devices? Probably not. We have to learn and try to balance the championship to try to make it equitable. We have tiers for every club, but we don’t have it at county.”

Harbinson says that some people within the association are taking a self serving approach to the debate.

“One or two of the provinces are looking at it and thinking that they are alright, and acting like they don’t care about the rest of the organisation.

“They are looking at it on a revenue point of view, they also want a link to the championship. I think we should be looking at it holistically. We should be asking ourselves is this the best format going forward? I am sure there are better formats but we have to go with what the task force have put forward.”

Harbinson believes that the provinces who feel they are okay include Ulster.

“They are thinking that their competition is pretty much okay. That’s wrong. They are not looking at the whole championship in the round.

“I also think the GPA have not been treated well. They represent 4000 men and women of the association. They went round to all the county panels and got their opinions. 80 per cent of them wanted change. Yet there are people who say that that doesn’t matter. That gives you an idea of the arrogance that will be represented at Congress. That is disappointing.”

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FRUSTRATED… Lenny Harbinson says change must happen

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