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Presidental vote will dominate Congress agenda

By Declan Bogue

A total of 328 delegates will make their way to GAA's Annual Congress this weekend in Croke Park, with the main business concerning the election of the next President of the Association.

As things stand, Cavan's Aogán ÓFearghail is a front-runner to become the first Ulster President since Sean McCague of Monaghan, who completed his term in 2003.

He faces stiff competition from Munster chairman Sean Walsh of Kerry, while Wexford's Sheamus Howlin, an ex-Leinster chairman, is also in the running.

Early indications are that Howlin could be eliminated after the first count, with ÓFearghail expected to pick up enough transfers to squeeze home and become the first Cavan man to hold the prestigious office.

That result, announced late to night, will form the majority of the analysis from the weekend.

Last year's Congress, held in Derry, became a heavily-debated one by virtue of the radical recommendations of the Football Review Committee being up for discussion.

The introduction of the black card was a clearly divisive issue and even the FRC chairman and architect of the new measures to stamp out foul play – Eugene McGee – felt the vote would go against the measures after having gauged the appetite for change among delegates in a long canvassing job over the Friday night and Saturday morning.

Only one proposed playing rule change has generated any speculation so far; that of Motion 58, proposed by the Standing Committee on Playing Rules, of whom Kilkenny manager Brian Cody is a member.

It proposes making an offence of the practice of advancing the ball past the point that a penalty puck in hurling is supposed to be struck from.

This has now become known in some quarters as the 'Nash rule', after Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash showcased his quite unique capabilities of scooping the sliotar out in front of him before smashing home penalties from short distances during last year's All-Ireland Championship.

Earlier this week, Clare's All-Ireland winning manager Davy Fitzgerald urged candidates voting on the motion: "If you had a son in goals and he gets the sliotar from 12 or 13 yards into the throat or any part of the lower body, that is going to do damage. This has to be common sense, nothing else. Please don't do what counties want you to do. Vote for common sense and do the right thing."

A motion on the Liam MacCarthy structure that could affect Antrim is being brought by Carlow.

In the provincial qualifier group for the Leinster Championship for the next three years would be Laois, Antrim, Westmeath, Carlow and London. In 2015, the number of these counties would be reduced to four, with a review of the list of counties in the provincial group every three years.

Elsewhere, the Burren club in Down have brought motion 50, which appears to be directly linked to last year when Down had to face Derry in the qualifiers at Celtic Park, having already defeated the same opponents in the Ulster Football Championship at the same venue.

The rule as it stands states that home venues shall be used in rounds 1, 2 and 3, with the first team drawn having home advantage, but the proposal makes room for an exception: "Where two teams have already met in a provincial Championship of the current year are drawn to meet, the winner of the provincial Championship game shall have the home advantage."

Belfast Telegraph

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