GAA Congress: major motions passed despite technical glitches

Most contenious was motion on sanctions for cynical play, which went to ballot

A view of Croke Park during the GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final between Waterford and Limerick on December 13th, 2020. Under motion 12, All-Ireland finals will move to July, enabling a split season.  Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

A view of Croke Park during the GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final between Waterford and Limerick on December 13th, 2020. Under motion 12, All-Ireland finals will move to July, enabling a split season. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

 

It was probably just as well that only two motions proved sufficiently heated to require a vote at Saturday’s first remotely held annual congress, given the technical glitches that bedevilled the event, but they were very significant proposals.

On a day that uniquely saw every other proposal accepted either by “acclamation” or with minimal opposition, there was plenty of time for discussion on the key topics.

At one point, it appeared as if opposition to the proposed trial to tidy up cynical play was going to succeed in its ambition to have the matter “kicked down the road” – in the words of Connacht chief executive John Prenty – or remitted to a special congress where in-person attendance may be again possible.

The proposed sanctions are well known: the award of a penalty against and a sin-binning for any player who prevents a goalscoring opportunity for an opponent by committing one of a number of cynical infractions within the 20-metre line or its arc. They will be trialled in this year’s intercounty season.

The substance of the arguments for deferral were also notably hostile to the proposal, which was put by former intercounty referee Willie Barrett from Tipperary, who pointed out that over the past four seasons, goalscoring had declined in the championships.

“A contributing factor has been undoubtedly cynical play. In the 2020 championship we had goalscoring opportunities denied by cynical play in both football and hurling in the provincial championships and the All-Ireland series, including the hurling final.”

Pressure

Opposing, John Cregan, chair of Limerick, cited pressure on referees to determine three issues: “Where it happened, was it cynical and had the player a goal-scoring opportunity? We may or may not have leagues this year so we could end up trialling it in the championship, which would be unprecedented.”

Further opposition came from Galway, Kilkenny and Westmeath, whereas speeches in support were heard from Cork – both county chair Marc Sheehan and his predecessor Tracey Kennedy – Wexford, Offaly and also senior provincial officers such as Prenty and Leinster chair Pat Teehan.

London and Kildare both expressed doubts about putting such a contentious proposal to a remote congress.

President John Horan said that submitting the motion to Saturday’s congress had been strongly endorsed by Central Council and after a show of (digital) hands he determined that a vote should be taken.

Motion 20 was passed 168-108, securing the weighted majority of 60 per cent-plus.

The other motion that required a ballot was at 13 on the clár, which limits the number of clubs contesting senior and intermediate championships to 16. The purpose is to streamline club fixtures in a new national games calendar, but there was push-back from the virtual floor from counties, such as Tyrone, arguing that it was up to them and not Croke Park to determine how their championships should be run.

The motion was accepted by 66-34 per cent.

Groundbreaking

That was the extent of the contentious argument, but equally significant motions went through without too much demur. Most groundbreaking was motion 12, bringing All-Ireland finals forward to July from 2022 and, in so doing, framing the split season for whatever football championship reforms are to follow whenever special congress convenes.

Wexford chair Micheál Martin intervened on this to express his county’s “strong support” for the proposal.

There was similarly uncomplicated passage for the proposal to allow temporary replacement for players who have a suspected head injury.

The usual housekeeping motions from the Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) were shepherded through by RAC chair and the GAA’s equivalent of a Supreme Court judge, Liam Keane.

Motions accepted

2 Changing the GAA financial year end to September from October. Central Council (CC)

7 One captain only to receive a trophy at post-match presentation.

Noted. Already approved by CC.

10 Players to complete an online anti-doping course. Gaelic Players Association.

12 All-Ireland finals to move to July and be played by the 29th Sunday of the year – or 30th if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday. Essentially the enabling motion for the split season. CC/Calendar Review Task Force (CRTF)

13 County championships at senior and intermediate to comprise no more than 16 teams in order to facilitate a rationalised national games calendar. CC/CRTF – Went to ballot and passed 66-34 per cent.

14 Abolish the qualifier element in the under-20 hurling championship and save three weeks in the fixtures calendar. CC/CRTF

15 Restrict under-20 hurling championship to players who haven’t already played in that year’s senior championship. CC/CRTF

17 Reconstitute the All-Ireland junior football championship as a development competition for British junior finalists, New York (natives only) and Kilkenny. CC/CRTF

20 The cynical fouling proposal to award a penalty against and a sin-binning for any player who prevents a goalscoring opportunity for an opponent by committing one of a number of cynical infractions within the 20m line or its arc. CC/Standing Committee on Playing Rules (SCPR) – Went to ballot and passed 61-39 per cent

22 To impose match rather than time-based suspensions on team officials for misconduct. CC/SCPR

24 To extend the scope of the rules against racist and anti-inclusion speech and behaviour by making them punishable under the rules of the games and not just the association. CC/SCPR

27 To allow a temporary replacement for a player having a suspected head injury assessed. CC/SCPR

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