Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

GAA Disciplinary Rules to get the boot in Cork?

It is doubtful if any issue in a GAA context has sparked as much debate and conjecture since the start of 2009 as the Experimental Disciplinary Rules.

Since they were introduced at the start of January in the various provincial subsidiary competitions, the rules have generated anger, frustration, commendation and encouragement in almost equal measure.

Yet when a series of motions comes before Congress in Cork tomorrow, all dealing with the Experimental Rules, it is extremely doubtful if the requisite two-thirds majority will be gained when push comes to shove to ensure that the rules remain part of the GAA’s staple diet for the All Ireland Championship series.

Intrigue and curiosity may have accompanied the introduction of the rules but in some quarters this morphed into disenchantment and indeed downright anger as referees displayed what is perceived to have been a lack of complacency in applying the rules.

The fact that many players were dismissed for what were felt to have been trivial offences — they may have been replaced by substitutes but this has not eased the controversy — angered team bosses and fans and has led to fears that the continued implementation of the rules in the Championship could actually blight the premier football and hurling competitions.

Those who have come down in favour of the new rules will point to more open football, higher scoring and less pulling and dragging in games.

But the feeling clearly persists that, given the heightened intensity of Championship matches, the continued implementation of the rules could lead to major problems.

Many prominent team managers, including Mickey Harte (Tyrone), Seamus McEnaney (Monaghan) and Jack O’Connor have already expressed their disquiet with the rules.

McEnaney was particularly incensed when his star forward Tommy Freeman was dismissed a matter of seconds after the throw-in in his team’s recent National League game against Armagh at the Athletic Grounds.

And Mickey Harte, after originally insisting that the rules should be given a fair trial, is now not quite so favourably disposed to them.

It is worth remembering, of course, that the rules were initially adopted because of, in the words of GAA Director General, “the systematic and occasionally dangerous fouling that tarnishes our games.”

Players, officials and supporters had become frustrated with the continuous disruptive tactics employed by some teams and players to blunt the skills of their opponents.

But while the experimental rules have certainly served some purpose to date, it is doubtful if their adoption for the All Ireland Championship series will meet with the widespread approval they need.

All county boards have now conducted their own debates on the matter and it is understood that many have already mandated their delegates to Congress as to just how they should go.

There may be some though who are prepared to keep their powder dry, perhaps prepared to be influenced by what is certain to be a lively debate that will precede any vote tomorrow.

But a two-thirds majority?

That may prove a very elusive goal.

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