Just nine months after they passed the motion into rule at their February meeting, the GAA’s Central Council on Saturday performed a U-turn on the plan to ban joint captains from lifting cups.
“Ard Chomhairle… also approved a motion to allow another player to join the captain for acceptance of the trophy on behalf of the team,” read the statement issued by Croke Park following the meeting. If the wording of the proposal is as exacting as the press release, then it’s an exercise in saving face about a volte face.
The original motion, which to the surprise of many was passed into rule by Central Council and not Congress, was a deeply flawed idea and smacked of PC gone wrong, an arbitrary, unnecessary measure that deemed it wrong to share an honour.
That nobody seemed to lay claim for coming up with it was the most damning indictment. Instead, it was left to GAA director general Tom Ryan to explain the reasoning behind it: “Probably around the same theme as incursions into the field and there have been overtures in recent years about maor foirne,” he said. “So it was not in response to anything specific but just a desire to tidy up presentation around matches.”
It’s silly bordering on the ridiculous that two people lifting a cup together could be regarded as any way comparable to selectors interrupting games or distracting play with their movements. It had nothing to do with Covid either but so much to do with failing to read the room and appreciating what is happening to rural clubs, particularly at underage level.
Longford chairman Albert Cooney, who had been primed to counter the motion in the belief it would be debated at Central Council, explained why co-captains are necessary. “Our problem is we have a number of what they call independent clubs whose numbers are that low that they have to come together to form teams. In that situation, the tradition in the county was a player from each club would be appointed joint-captain and give a sense of ownership to each parish.”
Cooney was assured the rule wouldn’t be enforced “rigorously, put it that way” as were the likes of Wexford who also contested it. Similar promises were provided when it appeared the GAA were going to have to hand in most of their silverware as a result of the successful 2010 motion to perforate any cups or trophies that could hold alcohol.
A result of a tired assembly of delegates wanting to get home from Down after an exhaustive Clár, the final motion, which came from Cavan’s Shannon Gaels, was well intentioned but excessive. “Not going to happen,” said one Croke Park official soon after the vote was made. And so it didn’t.
Besides the need to accurately reflect amalgamations at club level, the appointment of two skippers lends itself to best practice. Many counties have established leadership groups. As they contemplate going into eighth and seventh seasons with senior All-Ireland success, Kerry and Kilkenny may consider their time-honoured means of selecting captains from their senior county champions is archaic.
The plans to reverse their captaincy rule wasn’t the only 180 degrees pivot made by the GAA this last weekend. Initial plans to endorse the fixture calendar review task force’s proposal to scrap pre-season competitions were also put on ice.
To be fair to Central Council, the task force itself flipped their own view on the likes of the McGrath and McKenna Cups.
In December 2019, they recommended pre-season competitions be retained and restricted to post January 1 and five designated dates annually. Eleven months later, they called for them to be finished and the Allianz Leagues to commence the inter-county year. “To ensure a more meaningful closed season and appropriate ‘down time’ for inter-county players,” they argued.
That task force’s call for training not to resume until New Year’s Day was also ignored. After Croke Park signalled December 15 would be the official return date for collective inter-county training, the moratorium will now end a week earlier. That means Mayo and Tyrone, whose championship campaigns only concluded in September, can come back at the same time as those who finished up in June.
Even if it wasn’t all that successful due to overeager managers, weak county boards, and a lack of policing, there was an equalising principle in the GAA’s previous phased inter-county training return whereby every team had similar enough breaks from organised sessions. Allowing all back on the same date gives the impression the GAA aren’t all that bothered.
Making hard and fast decisions in these uncertain times is like catching water in a net and the GAA must be adaptable but on Saturday their gear stick was pushed firmly into reverse.
That the PwC All-Stars won’t have a gala event next month as much to celebrate its 50th anniversary is a shame if entirely understandable in light of the positive Covid cases.
However, the significance of the year has been marked by the excellent tribute to the scheme by Moire and Eileen Dunne, daughters of legendary journalist Mick Dunne, one of its founding fathers.
“All-Stars Gazing” is a treasure trove of a book, combining fascinating details from Dunne’s archives about the All-Stars in its infancy as well as match programmes and paraphernalia associated with the tour matches.
As well as offering a comprehensive list of winners, sponsors, and the evolution of the awards from rules such as prohibiting the selection of players who had been sent off, accounts from legends of the game about how much the All-Stars mean are noteworthy.
“My mum has a trophy room, and all eight All-Stars are together on a shelf,” Colm Cooper reveals. “Each year I bring them down to the summer festival day at the club (Dr Crokes). It is interesting to see how the kids are much more excited to see the All-Star trophies than the All-Ireland medals.”
The book doesn’t shy away from the controversies either with the decision to omit Brian Whelahan from the 1994 All-Stars team addressed (“we weren’t surprised on the night because Dave Clarke was outstanding that year, so I didn’t even notice” was Brian Lohan’s recollection of it) and the call to pick Peter Canavan ahead of Brian McGuigan in 2008. That still rankles with his father and former Tyrone great Frank who tells the Dunnes: “You can’t judge a game on an iPad.” Nor does it shy away from gauging contrasting thoughts about recent changes to selection process.
Part of the All-Stars’ beauty is its subjectiveness but in “All-Stars Gazing” the Dunnes have produced its definitive chronicle. The book is available from allstarsgazing.com priced at €24.99.
“That performance must have nearly put your vocabulary to the test,” enthused Eamonn “Ned” Rea in a text message following his beloved Limerick’s latest All-Ireland SHC final win in August. “An amazing performance from an amazing bunch.”
The sad passing of the popular 1973 All-Ireland winner will reverberate around the hurling world. But the immense joy he took from seeing Limerick enter their golden era will provide comfort to his family and many friends.
“Brilliant performance,” he texted about last December’s All-Ireland final victory against Waterford. “So proud to be from the same county.”
The delight he took in fellow Effin club man Nickie Quaid reaching the heights was boundless. A few days after that game 11 months ago, Rea was seen skipping across the road into The Halfway House where up to recently he was still holding court behind the bar with his blend of hospitality, humour, and hurling talk.
So long involved in Club Limerick in Dublin with the likes of John Keating, he was a great who wore his pedigree lightly and happy to put his shoulder to the wheel drumming up financial support.
Interviewed in this newspaper prior to the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, he was at pains not to put any pressure on the current team. He didn’t. A gentleman like him couldn’t but his humility told him otherwise. He remained a true son of Limerick.