O'Neill calls for change to five-year term on playing laws


GAELIC GAMES:IN REACTION to the controversy that decided the Leinster football final on July 11th, Liam O’Neill – currently the only declared candidate for the GAA presidency in 2012 – yesterday called for immediate change to the five-year term for altering playing laws.

Former Leinster Council chairman O’Neill, chair of the national coaching and games development committee, ran for president in 2008 but lost out to Christy Cooney.

Speaking at the launch of a new goalkeeping DVD, in conjunction with Foras na Gaeilge, O’Neill commented of the need to revisit the Mark idea that was rejected at this year’s Congress.

When it was noted this cannot be done until 2015, O’Neill stated: “I think what happened a couple of weekends ago is going to take our whole attitude to rules and how we apply them and how we make them, we’re going to have to be a little more flexible with what we do.

“It’s ludicrous that somebody could have a great idea for a rule change the month after Congress and not be able to do it for five years simply because the rulebook says. That’s just nonsense. We have to be a bit more innovative to how we make changes.”

When asked what rule change could be introduced that could have prevented Joe Sheridan’s late match-winning, yet clearly illegal, goal that ensured Meath pipped Louth to the Leinster title, O’Neill responded: “You can’t legislate for what happened in the sense that nobody ever dreamed that what happened at the end of that game was going to happen. It never happened before in the manner in which it happened.

“It never happened in the situation where underdogs were so badly served by a sequence of events.

“Quite simply, there should have been a re-fixture for that game. Everyone knows that. Everyone knows a wrong was perpetrated.”

When it was pointed out other sporting bodies would not grant a re-fixture, O’Neill replied: “Probably not. But, the fact of the matter is, look into your hearts. Think yourselves: Did you think that what happened was fair? Did you think it was right? Did you think it was something we should stand over? The answer to that would have to be no.

“So, we have a situation where our rulebook brought about an embarrassing situation where our president could do nothing about it. The CCCC could do nothing about it. The Leinster Council could do nothing about. Everyone was left with egg on their faces.

“Then we had a situation where we all turned towards the county who had won. They were totally innocent in this. They had just won a game by means we wouldn’t have designed.

“I would have had huge sympathy for what happened to Louth. But I would also have huge sympathy for what happened to the Meath county board.

“The rulebook should have allowed a situation where some group could have looked at that fairly and said it shouldn’t have happened, it should be changed. But the rulebook doesn’t allow us to do that.”

However, O’Neill’s potential solution raises further questions.

“I mean (GAA head of games) Pat Daly has been talking for a number of years about a three-man body sitting on a Monday morning to review the weekend. And that should be done instantaneously.

“You’d have a lawyer, a GAA person and a neutral from a different sporting body who would say, ‘look that’s out of order, in no code would that be allowed’.”

It was then put to O’Neill that the Central Competitions Control Committee are currently carrying out this duty (in a notably improved time frame this season).

“They do but it’s a very dragged out process and sometimes it’s so obvious that it shouldn’t have to go through that whole procedural nightmare that we send people through.

“It should be done instantaneously, someone say ‘Look, that’s out of order, they have a case to answer, inform them immediately and call them in’. Because justice that is done swiftly is better for the player and for everyone.”

In contrast to Cooney who emphatically ruled out goal-line technology on Monday, O’Neill believes it is the way forward for Gaelic games.

“But where it’s available, it’s crazy not to use it, absolutely. It would have to be something spectacular.

“I think we’d have to limit it to goals or to wides.”