Leagues suffer as GAA rules tried and tested

The motions for Congress will be released this morning with Donegal’s intention to prevent a team (Dublin) designating Croke Park as a home venue set to generate the most debate.

Leagues suffer as GAA rules tried and tested

The motions for Congress will be released this morning with Donegal’s intention to prevent a team (Dublin) designating Croke Park as a home venue set to generate the most debate.

It is known Donegal, in presenting the proposal, upset some central GAA authorities who believed the county would have been satisfied with their plan to give the provincial champions their home game in the first round of the All-Ireland quarter-final phases.

There may be enough lobbying done to keep golden egg-layers Dublin in GAA HQ for two of their three Super 8 matches but the poor crowd for their All-Ireland semi-final against Galway last year and the dismal 14,502 attendance for the counties’ latest meeting on Saturday, which formed part of a three-game card, may force a rethink.

Donegal will pick up support in Connacht when the winners of this year’s provincial championship will likely face the Leinster champions in Croke Park in Round 2 of the Super 8, a week after those same Leinster champions have played a fourth round qualifier winner at the venue.

Indeed Galway figures are already talking about All-Ireland semi-finals being played away from Croke Park.

GAA director general Tom Ryan revealed last week that there will be at least four motions from Central Council prompted by events last year — stiffer discipline rules in the wake of the sideline flashpoints in some club matches, a relaxing of the property rules following the Liam Miller charity game situation, a clarification of the Central Competitions Control Committee’s powers when it comes to fixing venues in the wake of Newbridge or Nowhere and streamlining the disciplinary process to keep up with hurling’s round-robin provincial championships and football’s Super 8.

All four are reactionary and might have been put in place earlier with a little foresight. Two Laoismen, Liam O’Neill and Anthony Delaney, would argue the sideline and Rule 42 controversies were always going to come back and bite the GAA.

The CCCC mightn’t have expected Kildare to be so bullish about playing Mayo in St Conleth’s Park, but they were wrong to assume they would move.

The challenges the changes to both senior inter-county championships present to the GAA’s disciplinary system had been cited in advance by former Disputes Resolution Authority and Irish Examiner columnist Jack Anderson.

There will also be the recommendation to change the format of the Allianz Hurling League, a fait accompli if you go by the indifference shown by some managers towards the competition thus far.

With the exception of Limerick, that lack of incentive has cast a shadow over what we’ve seen over the opening two rounds — damn us as killjoys but Carlow’s draw had a lot to do with them facing a Galway team without 10 of its All-Ireland final starting side.

Should the motion receive 60%, relegation will not apply to Division 1A and yet there is a relegation play-off pencilled in for March 10, which instead will determine what group a team will go into for 2020 (the winners join Group A and the losers Group B).

A dead rubber if ever there was one and what follows is a long nine weeks to the start of the provincial championships.

The fate of the experimental football rules won’t be known until Special Congress later in the year, which divorces the Allianz Football League from the Championship as they won’t apply to the latter.

Three rounds of the league will be played by the time Congress comes around Friday fortnight — isn’t 48 games on top of the pre-season competitions enough to gauge how the changes are faring?

The 20-metre kick-out already looks a winner and there would be few grumbles about the forward sideline kick outside the 13m lines going to a straight vote.

Running repairs obviously have to be made to the offensive mark and the sin bin but amendments could be taken from the floor as they were to the Hurling 2020 proposals at Congress four years ago.

It’s more reasonable than the situation the GAA finds itself in now where it has depreciated not only its hurling competition, albeit temporarily and necessarily, but its football equivalent.

The scourge of the hand-pass might remain but don’t rule out a club or two addressing it when they have a chance to change the playing rules next year.

David Hassan’s playing rules committee also has two years to return to it.

As flawed as the limit on hand-passes was, the process of shooting it down was too.

The Gaelic Players Association, who themselves are expected to exercise their right to put forward a motion, balloted inter-county managers to effectively support their opposition to it.

Trying to improve the game of football and hurling’s structures is a core part of the GAA’s brief but this year it comes with a cost and the leagues are the collateral damage.

Players need fairness from analysts as well as refs

Clare’s Colm Galvin has spoken of players having to adapt their approach from referee to referee.

Consistency is only an aspiration when it comes to officiating but it is in terms of television analysis too.

RTÉ’s League Sunday has made a strong start this year, the coverage is substantial and Joanne Cantwell’s determination to challenge analysts on their points (or at least to substantiate and elaborate on them) makes for good viewing.

However, if it is to shine a light on a foul like Tim O’Mahony’s in Cork’s defeat to Wexford it must also focus it on what Gearóid Hegarty did to Barry Heffernan in Limerick on Saturday or Shane Golden on Huw Lawlor in Ennis on Sunday.

The elbow by Hegarty on Heffernan towards the end of the game, which left the Tipperary defender concussed, was commented upon by Michael Duignan and Marty Morrissey during the live commentary as not being seen by the match officials and deemed a yellow card offence by Duignan.

It’s not that Hegarty should find himself subject to jury-by-TV but there wasn’t much difference in what he did to O’Mahony and yet the Corkman may suffer due the extra attention on his infringement by pundits.

After Sunday’s game in Cusack Park, Clare co-manager Gerry O’Connor asked: “You’d obviously ask yourself will the same level of scrutiny be applied to the tackles as the year progresses and that’s only a natural question that I think the media and everybody will be asking as the year goes on.”

Bearing in mind the disparity the treatment of O’Mahony and that of Hegarty and his own player Golden, it didn’t take long for him to receive his answer.

No more Páirc strife this month

It’s February and it’s no surprise that no team hates the cold as much as Cork’s senior hurlers.

The lack of a win between them and the senior footballers these past couple of weekends marks the county’s worst start to the Leagues since the 2008 strike when all points for the first two rounds were awarded to their opponents.

The footballers recalibrating and the hurlers hibernating (they have won just 11 of their 32 Division 1A games this decade) has developed into this perfect storm. Disputes about individuals and figures in the county board have added to the foreboding cloud cover and then comes the latest appearance of the awful Páirc Uí Chaoimh surface on Sunday.

Cork GAA officialdom haven’t helped themselves.

The decision to post an aerial photograph of a snow-covered stadium last Wednesday, describing the snap as “beautiful”, four days before a double-header, was asking for trouble.

Obviously, the snow had an impact on the turf but it didn’t need to be celebrated.

The last senior double-header there last February effectively closed Páirc Uí Chaoimh until the summer.

After that Cork-Cavan and Cork-Waterford double-bill, the hurlers’ relegation play-off against the Déise was fixed for Páirc Uí Rinn.

The news yesterday that Cork will now play Clare in Páirc Uí Rinn makes sense but so too should the footballers’ clash with Meath on February 23.

That way, the surface will have more time to recover for the hurlers’ game against Tipp on March 3 and the footballers’ hosting Donegal on March 16.

A month’s break would be the best damage limitation exercise.

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