Additional protection of younger players the most significant changes introduced by Cavan GAA congress

One-on-one penalty in hurling endorsed as well as introduction of an advantage rule similar to football’s

GAA officials expressed themselves happy with the weekend's annual congress, held in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.

The most significant motions passed provided additional protection for younger players by restricting the age at which they can play for adult teams and the endorsement of the one-on-one penalty in hurling.

Another proposal from Liam Sheedy’s Hurling 2020 Committee, the introduction of an advantage rule similar to football’s, was also accepted although another idea – to allow replacements for players sent off on a second yellow card – was predictably defeated.

There was also success for the Micheal Martin's Minor Review Work Group, which successfully specified that players would have to be older than 17 to play for adult club teams and 18 for inter-county sides. Similar restrictions will apply at under-21 with players now required to over 16 and 18 at club and inter-county levels.

The motion on opening all GAA grounds to other sports, subject to Central Council approval, was defeated after an intervention by GAA director general Páraic Duffy, who pointed out that this would have greater implications for the GAA than the current availability of Croke Park and the co-operation with the IRFU in facilitating the bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Duddy intervention

Duffy also intervened before the vote on the motion from

Leinster

Council, which proposed allowing provinces to decide on their own formats for championship.

The idea came very close to acceptance but fell a few per cent short of the required two-thirds majority.

“I was a bit surprised it got the votes,” said Duffy. “I think at the end of the day people were rushing on a bit and maybe it needed a bit more teasing than it got.

“I was pleased with the decision because to rush into that would have been damaging for club fixtures. I was a bit surprised, yeah, but the outcome was okay.”

The early stages of the debates were, however, notable for the lack of engagement from the floor.

Just three of the first 20 proposals were accepted and few of these proposals attracted much more than a perfunctory speech moving them, followed by no response.

It was significant that the longest debate of the day concerned a proposal to reduce overseas representation at congress whereas significant motions on the handpass in football went largely undiscussed.

Speaking afterwards, Duffy said that part of the reason for this was that counties had been well briefed in advance of congress and had discussed motions in more detail than would have been the case in the past with the result that many arrived with their minds made up.

“They’ve been given a briefing, they know what they’re about, know what the change means and before they’ve come here, have discussed them and have decided, ‘we’re for this or against that’.

“That’s definitely what’s happening here.

“I would like a bit more debate on some of the motions but we had a few lively discussions on the key ones. Overall I thought the decisions were really good. The only wobbly moment was that Leinster one but overall I thought it was good.”

Asked did this mean that congress was no longer a deliberative forum he replied:

“Probably less so but I think the decisions are good. I think a lot of very good motions were passed there today because of what was done in advance. There’s very few of which you’d say, ‘I wish we hadn’t passed that’.”

Overseas delegates

Among the motions referred back were the above-mentioned proposal to reduce the number of overseas delegates and the motion to allow temporary substitutions in the case of suspected concussion while the affected player was assessed.

Ger Ryan, chair of the outgoing medical scientific and welfare committee, echoed a call from the GPA’s Seán Potts to refer back the motion to the welfare committee.

“I agree with this recommendation. The sentiment behind the motion is laudable but there is no suitable pitchside test which can diagnose concussion and we have to be careful about expecting referees to play a role in this. There are also ethical issues.”

Duffy added that there had been medical concerns about the motion.

“The big issue there was the advice from doctors. We had a lot of correspondence from doctors who were very unhappy with the motion and decided we’re not going to do something here that goes against medical advice. We have a lot of good medical people in the GAA.

“Concussion is not as big an issue for us as for other sports.

“I think it’s important to make that point but it’s still something we have to get right so I was happy with the decision today.

“Let’s send it back to the medical people and see if our protocols need to be changed.”

Congress elections

On Saturday Niall Erskine of Donegal and John Greene of Longford were elected as representatives of congress (formerly trustees) for the next three years.

It was also confirmed by congress the legal academic Prof Jack Anderson of Queen's University Belfast would be the new secretary of the Disputes Resolution Authority.

He succeeds Matt Shaw of Westmeath, who had completed two terms in the post.