Swing in favour of hurling proposals
THE campaign to implement the radical reform proposals of the hurling development committee has received huge impetus from Monday night meetings in Kilkenny and Wexford. Both counties had previously come out strongly against the plan at their annual conventions.
The Kilkenny vote was exceptionally tight, 24-23, whereas in Wexford the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the convention decision was exceeded by six votes.
This augurs well for the proposals which at one stage looked like being blown out of the water. In recent weeks, however, there has been a discernible swing in favour of the reforms. Against a background of - at best - uncertainty concerning the intentions of the traditional hurling counties, the results have been unexpectedly positive.
Last week Tipperary came out heavily in favour and earlier Galway had also supported them. With Kilkenny and Cork expected to be crucial touchstones of the proposals' prospects, the result from the Leinster county is particularly significant. Having defeated the plan by a substantial vote at county convention, Kilkenny turned around remarkably.
Former chairman Nicky Brennan, who was a member of the development committee, led the charge in favour with Central Council delegate Tom Ryle against.
A critical contribution to the momentum now growing behind the proposals has been the forceful presentation of work group and Cork County Board secretary Frank Murphy. "The best PR job I ever saw well nearly," was the reaction of one observer at the Kilkenny meeting which lasted three hours.
Murphy, whose speech on the subject to the last Central Council meeting before Christmas certainly impressed this reporter, faces his biggest test when his own county debate the matter next Tuesday.
Another factor helping the work group is the provision that the proposals should receive a two-year trial period after which they will be reviewed.
Clare will also make their decision next Tuesday night. Team manager Ger Loughnane has admitted that his attitude to the proposals has changed from early opposition. In an interview with Cork's Evening Echo, he said: "This (proposal) should not be dismissed out of hand and I personally believe it should be experimented with for two years
The championship proposals to be subjected to Congress provide most controversially for the reentry to the All-Ireland championship of the defeated finalists in Munster and Leinster. Other work group proposals that, the National League be played simultaneously with the championship may well be defeated by Central Council but some form of `calendar year' season for hurling is likely to be accepted at the meeting in early May.
Finally, the debate over whether the championship proposals will require a simple or two thirds majority is likely to be settled by presidential or Central Council ruling that the two-year experimental term will need only a simple majority.
On a vaguely related matter, Pat Daly the GAA's games development officer has reported expressions of interest in indoor hurling from the US. Bill Underwood, a sports promoter, was discussing an inter-city Gaelic football tournament when the phenomenon of indoor hurling was mentioned in passing.
Played with a hurley made from a wooden handle and rubber has and a perforated plastic sliotar, indoor hurling has proved very, popular with youngsters, particularly in non-traditional counties. It is, according to Daly, "the most successful innovation in years
Underwood felt that the sport might take off in America during the off-season for sports such as ice hockey and basketball when indoor arenas would be available. He believes that it would have potential first as a spectator, and then as a participant, sport.
A less speculative innovation that Daly is bringing to fruition is the production of promotional videos in conjunction with students at Dublin City University. The purpose is to present highlights of the football and hurling year in the style of contemporary, youth-friendly television
The National Irish Bank's GAA personality of the month award was awarded jointly to Cork camogie player Sandie Fitzgibbon and Louth handballer Peter McAuley in recognition of their achievements in 1995.
Fitzgibbon was a member of the All-Ireland winning team and had captained Cork to their previous championship success in 1999 when she also led the county to the National League title. One of the outstanding figures in the game, she becomes the first Cork player to win the award twice.
McAuley is, similarly regarded as one of finest handballers in both domestic and international competition.