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GAA chiefs told to stick to rules

By John Campbell

The appointment of a Standing Committee to monitor the playing rules in football and hurling was one of the major decisions taken at the GAA Congress in Mullingar.

The imposition of fines and suspensions for allowing GAA property to be used for sports other than gaelic games, the restoration of the inter-provincial championships and a modification of the rule that currently forces county officials to step down permanently from their posts after five years were some of the others.

The ongoing debate and indeed controversy surrounding the playing rules had prompted Central Council to propose the motion calling for the setting up of a Standing Committee that will now monitor the rules on an ongoing basis particularly in relation to their interpretation and implementation by referees.

But this will not impact on the current policy whereby proposed rule changes can be brought to Congress every five years.

The current levels of frustration and disenchantment within the GAA fraternity surrounding the rules were perhaps best summed up by overseas delegate Tony Bass when he declared: “We have committees and sub-committees dealing with just about every issue under the sun but the manner in which our games like football and hurling are played is still our core element.

“We should not forget this — we should be very conscious of the evolving nature of our games,” he added.

And Ulster Council president Aoghan Farrell pulled no punches when moving a motion calling for suspensions and fines to be imposed on clubs, county boards or provincial bodies who allow their property to be used for sports other than gaelic games.

“It is important that we re-affirm that our primary objective is the playing of gaelic games and we cannot condone the playing of other sports with which we are in conflict on our property,” he said.

Croke Park itself had been used by rugby and soccer while the Aviva Stadium was being redeveloped.

The decision to restore the inter-provincial football and hurling championships next year received a surprisingly high endorsement from Congress — something that will make current Ulster football boss Joe Kernan, a firm advocate of the series, a particularly happy man today.

And with the GAA now more conscious that they need to keep key personnel on board, the decision that a county officer who has under current rule to step down after five years in his post can now seek to regain his position after a further five years have elapsed has already been enthusiastically endorsed.

One delegate said: “There’s not much point in someone bringing expertise to a particular role for five years and then finding himself ditched permanently.

“The GAA cannot afford to lose such experience and dedication.”

But there was disappointment for two Ulster clubs at Congress.

Former Antrim chairman Dr John McSparran made an impassioned plea on behalf of the Robert Emmet’s club for the provincial and All-Ireland club championships to be completed prior to the commencement of the following year’s National League but this motion was defeated with former Crossmaglen Rangers chairman Eddie Hughes among those speaking against it.

And the Donaghmoyne club’s motion urging Congress to allow the provincial runners-up a 13-day gap between the date of their provincial final and their involvement in the All-Ireland Qualifier series was also defeated.

The motion calling for the introduction of mandatory mouth-guards for players was referred back to the Medical and Scientific Committee for further ratification but it will come before next year’s Congress where it is expected to be carried.

This will of course mean that mouth-guards will be compulsory from January 2013.

It is also expected that the National League semi-finals will be brought back next year.

They were in vogue up until recently but the GAA then decided to opt for points difference and the outcome of inter-county matches to decide promotion and relegation issues — something that certainly has not found favour in many counties already this month.

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