The most revolutionary change in GAA championship history hangs in the balance in Croke Park this afternoon. A special congress, the first such forum in nearly two years to meet in person, will consider the recommendations of the Fixtures Calendar Task Force.
Will Option B - or motion 19 on the clár and the only game in town - get 60 per cent of the delegates and go ahead next summer? Will it fall short and be remitted for further consideration at next year's congress? Or anything in between?
Option A, motion 18, has such poor prospects that even its original advocates accept that it has no chance.
Once the idea of rearranging the provinces into four eight team groups is dismissed, focus will fall on motion 19 and its importation of the national league into the summer as a basis for the championship.
It effectively throws the future of the provincial championships into doubt by switching them to February and March.
This is where the main action will be today. A few weeks ago it was assumed that neither motion would secure the necessary 60 per cent support for adoption but in the interim that has changed.
Motion 19 has been vigorously promoted by the Gaelic Players Association but that support can be counter-productive, as in the words of one senior observer, "there's little warmth towards the GPA among administrators". The players' body nonetheless made a strong pitch for the proposal.
In the past few days an impressive roll call of counties has emerged in support of motion 19.
The most significant move however came earlier this week when former president John Horan, who appointed the task force in 2019 and publicly advocated the substance of motion 19, addressed some GAA officials and suggested that the way forward was to accept the basic idea and tidy it up at next February's annual congress.
His suggestion came with the qualifications that its implementation be delayed until 2023 and then conducted on a trial basis for two years.
Horan's intervention was followed by a low-key statement of approval from GAA president Larry McCarthy and DG Tom Ryan at a media briefing on Wednesday. This is seen as potentially significant, as McCarthy is the first overseas president ever elected and therefore his influence with that block of 34 votes is expected to be strong.
One senior congress delegate pointed out that it’s all a bit up in the air, though, without even an obvious proposer for the motion as the task force - joint sponsors with Central Council - has been disbanded. It’s an important job. As well as the eight minutes speaking time to begin and respond to the debate, whoever is given the task also has the right to insist that it go to a vote if any interventions to refer it back should arise.
Despite the assurances from McCarthy and Ryan that there would be no amendments or additions to the motion, it is expected to be made clear that any change will be subject to a two-year review and although it was also stated on Wednesday that implementation would go ahead in 2022, there is every chance that Horan’s timetable will be adopted and the status quo ante be applied for next year.
Concept of change
These issues arise only if the motion gets 60 per cent and doubt persists about that, partly based on how vehemently counties are actually supporting motion 19 as opposed to the concept of change and accordingly how robust the county mandates will prove.
One admitted opponent of the motion asked yesterday, “what is the point of meeting to debate these proposals if congress is not open to persuasion? It’s not like an presidential election.”
It also remains to be seen if Friday’s management committee meeting produces any curve balls to throw into the deliberations.
All sides agree that if motion 19 falls, change is still on the way. A committee, probably the Central Competitions Control Committee will synthesise the views expressed with the intention of bringing updated proposals to next February's congress for implementation in 2023.