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Building Casement is not priority, says new GAA president Larry McCarthy

 

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Grounds for improvement: The sad state of Casement Park as it is at the moment

Grounds for improvement: The sad state of Casement Park as it is at the moment

�INPHO/James Crombie

New chief: President of the GAA Larry McCarthy

New chief: President of the GAA Larry McCarthy

�INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

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Grounds for improvement: The sad state of Casement Park as it is at the moment

The new GAA President, Larry McCarthy, who took the reins of the organisation during Saturday's historic 'virtual' annual Congress, has adopted a cautious approach towards the building of Casement Park in his first press engagement.

After a day spent wrestling with the vagaries of technology and a lively debate on Motion 20 that dealt with cynical fouling in hurling and football that lasted well over an hour, 38 motions were put forward and 38 passed.

Motion 20 was the standout.

It means that a cynical foul in Gaelic football or hurling that is committed by the defending team inside the 20-metre line or semi-circle that prevents a goalscoring opportunity will result in a sin bin for the offending player and a penalty puck/kick.

It passed with 61 per cent of the vote despite the urgings of outgoing President John Horan to defer the decision to Special Congress later in the year.

But it met with favour from the incoming President.

"I'm absolutely delighted that it passed. There's cynicism in all sports. The sooner we can clamp down on it, the better. And I think this rule will address that," he answered.

Director-General Tom Ryan added: "The most important thing from my point of view was the process that applied, and I'm not sure how long we went on with the debate, it was close on an hour.

"I think it got a good airing, and I think everyone who wanted to speak, got a chance to speak on it. I'm pleased with the process that it went through, and I'm pleased it was done properly in difficult circumstances.

Also, the thing to bear in mind, is it's a trial. We shouldn't be afraid to embark upon new things and try new things, and I think it will make a difference."

Asked what were the priorities for the GAA now, McCarthy succinctly said, "Getting us back on the field."

On the development of Casement Park in Belfast he went into greater detail.

"Everything emanates from getting back on the field," he said.

"You saw the accounts, the cupboard is bare and once we are back in we might have some funding to be distributed. Our commitment was for €15 million to the project and we will stand by that and let's see where the costs are going and where the project is going.

"Where is it on the wish list? Well, getting back on the field is top of my wish list. There are other capital projects as well that we have committed to and we will fund those as well. I don't have any priority of one coming before the other, I can assure you."

McCarthy stressed the importance of getting children back to playing Gaelic Games, stating: "Never has the idea of bringing fun back into our lives been more important than it is now. We do not need the occasion of a big match in Cork or Clones to bring fun back, we just need to get out on the field, whether that be in Ballymun, Bracknagh or Ballygalget."

Elaborating on this theme, the New Yorker said: "When schools are safely open again, I'm asking for clubs to open up so the kids can go and play for the three reasons I outlined. If they can't, well they can't. But I think it will bring a lot of relief to everybody if the kids are allowed play. And we did it safely last year.

"Having seen schools open in the US and school sports coming back, I would have to be optimistic. But I only landed in this country in the last 48 hours. It would be wrong for me to suggest I would be optimistic, or not optimistic about it.

"But I am asking it, on the basis of our history and the basis that we did it last year. Acknowledging that circumstances are a bit different this year, the variant is stronger apparently."

The other big Motion of the day's business was to divorce club and county seasons entirely and have two separate seasons. How this will work in practise remains to be seen, but it was welcomed by McCarthy.

"I am delighted that today we have adopted the split season model so that our clubs and club players will have a defined season and a certainty of fixture. As a result, everybody can plan their lives because people will know when club games are taking place," he said.

"I call on our CCC's, our Fixtures Analysts and County Committees to ensure that an excellent programme of games is provided for all clubs from novice to senior, in all codes. Let us not waste this opportunity."

He also spoke on the changing relationship with player's body, the GPA: "I think we are the last great amateur sporting organisation standing in the world. There are not too many more of them out there, with grassroots sport at the same time.

"But I don't have any concerns that the GPA might be inclined in that way or against the amateur ethos at all. It was a philosophical statement."

Belfast Telegraph


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