Ulster defend stance on rule changes


Ulster Council secretary Danny Murphy has defended the decision not to use the new GAA rules experiments in the McKenna Cup. The relevant counties voted against any late change to the competition at a meeting of the Ulster Council last Saturday, but were apparently unaware that the rules experiments would also come into force for the National Football League.

It means that Ulster teams will be the only ones without some sort of acclimatisation to the rule experiments before the start of the league. Leinster teams will test the differences in the O'Byrne Cup, as will Munster teams in the McGrath Cup and Connacht teams in the FBD League.

Yet according to Murphy, the Ulster counties had not been made fully aware that the rules experiments would also be used in the league before Tuesday's announcement at Croke Park. The main reason they rejected the experiments for the McKenna Cup was they felt it was too late to be amending the format already laid down for the new season.

"We had the McKenna Cup competition formulated and laid down back on November 9th," explained Murphy, "with all the rules, dates and venues set out at that stage. When the experiments were discussed at the meeting of the Ulster Council last Saturday, all the counties agreed to proceed with the competition as previously agreed.

"But certainly at our meeting on Saturday we had no indication that they would also be used in the National League. Our understanding was that Central Council had approved the experimental rule changes only for the four provincial competitions that take place in the New Year."

Murphy declined to comment further on the apparent lack of full communication on the matter, but was nonetheless satisfied that the Ulster Council was right to play off the McKenna Cup as previously agreed.

"We really had two issues as part of our discussion. First of all that we had set down the details of the competition, and there was no support or desire to change them.

"The second point was that we also have the university teams competing in the McKenna Cup, before they go into the Sigerson Cup. And they have first preference on players. But since the rule changes aren't being used in the Sigerson Cup we felt it would be unfair to have them in the McKenna Cup. Everyone was happy with that, and there was no mood whatsoever to adopt the rule changes."

Murphy also declined to speculate on whether Ulster teams might now be at a disadvantage going into the league because of the lost opportunity to try out the rules experiments, which in football include the abolition of the pick-up and the introduction of a sin bin.

Murphy does, however, welcome the nature of the rules experiments, while being a little concerned about their timing. "Well the whole aspect of experimentation is written in the GAA rules, and I've no problem with that. In fact I think it is time to experiment. "

The GAA president Sean Kelly said he was disappointed with the decision by the Ulster Council. But he played down the suggestion it might have something to do with Tyrone, who two years ago successfully got a motion passed at congress that banned rule changes for a period of 10 years.

"That was changed again," said Kelly, "so we can now change rules every five years, but we can experiment along the way. And it was passed and agreed at Central Council level that we were going to experiment, but Ulster do not have to come on board. Still, they will have to abide by the rules when the league comes around."

The Wexford All Star full back Darragh Ryan will learn within the next few weeks if he will be able to continue playing. He is battling with another knee injury which flared up after the Leinster's Railway Cup hurling semi-final against Munster in Croke Park. He is awaiting a scan to see what the damage is.

He has been troubled by knee problems throughout his career and has undergone cruciate ligament operations on both knees. The latest setback has left the player and management feeling that his career could be over.

Having spoken with a top surgeon at Waterford Regional Hospital who carried out the two previous operations the prognosis, according to Wexford team manager Seamus Murphy, is not encouraging. "Darragh is in a lot of pain at present with the knee very badly swollen. He is awaiting further tests but the knee could need further surgery. There are problems and he could have to go back under the knife."