Away from the field, the GAA have a busy five months ahead. Our correspondent looks at the 10 things to expect...
1. New All-Ireland football championship proposal
Already the GPA and Carlow have released details of their plans to reinvigorate the competition although Croke Park are likely to have their own ideas about changing the qualifier system.
The provinces are not to be touched but what comes after is fair game whether that is the reintroduction of a “B” championship, Champions League format or a phased backdoor structure whereby seeded teams enter at a later stage.
The appetite for change is strong.
2. New GAA season calendar
Not to be confused with a new GAA calendar season. Trying to squeeze the entire season into 12 months is not feasible according to several counties, particularly dual ones. Already, the Dublin senior football championship looks more like a blitz than a knock-out competition. But there can be incremental changes to aid club fixtures such as squeezing the championships by a week or two and cutting down on the number of replays. We may have an August All-Ireland hurling final in 2017 - the grounds are justifiable.
3. New black card offence
After announcing the death of Gaelic football last spring, head of the playing rules committee Jarlath Burns has made quite the brief for himself. He knows there’s no silver bullet rule that can make the game more palatable but it’s safe to say they will propose or at least endorse a motion calling for feigning/simulation to be made a black card offence. Currently a yellow card infringement, the GAA indicated they want it upgraded when the Central Competitions Control Committee proposed an eight-week ban for Tiernan McCann, which was later thrown out.
4. No clock/hooter but...
Despite the time-keeping difficulties experienced by referees in this year’s championships, the clock/hooter won’t be appearing at Congress. As there were only 17% of delegates in support of the technology in Cavan earlier this year falling far short of the 33% required for it to be discussed the following year, it won’t be on the 2016 Clár. However, there may be a compromise. Substitutes may now become stoppages. It’s a measure that can’t come soon enough.
5. Microchipped sliotars
Deemed a wild west type of industry, the GAA are shortly expected to announce details of how they aim to combat it. Director of games development Pat Daly has long been working on the project but the problem was further emphasised in the Hurling 2020 committee’s report when they wrote that the standardisation of sliotars was of paramount importance. By placing microchips in sliotars, the GAA will be able to endorse three suppliers of core, which they hope will lead to a cheaper ball priced around €5 or €6.
6. Concussion sub rule
A motion to introduce such a rule was put forward by a number of county boards at Congress earlier this year only to be deferred to the medical, scientific and welfare committee. There was a sense at the time that such a replacement could be open to abuse. The Ger Ryan-led group are expected to come back with a new proposal over the coming months.
7. New third level eligibility requirements
One of the areas GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail wanted to address is the college minefield that has hogged headlines in the early months of the year. There is a strong school of thought in Croke Park that a number of third level institutions have been getting away with too much in relation to fielding some players on Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup teams. A group has already been commissioned to clean things up.
8. A Diarmuid Connolly motion
Any considered reading of the Disputes Resolution Authority’s judgement on Connolly’s case would indicate the real issue didn’t lie with the GAA authorities but how the majority of the DRA tribunal came to their decision in favour of the Dublin player. However, rules expert Frank Murphy may be encouraged to propose an amendment to the disciplinary process so as to ensure the element of precedent doesn’t apply in the future.
9. Less live TV games - but not yet
In his annual report this year, GAA director general Páraic Duffy spoke about the possibility of cutting down on the number of games being shown live on TV games. The media rights deals aren’t up for discussions until the end of 2016/start of 2017 but it’s a debate that is likely to heighten particularly in light of the disappointing Sky Sports figures in the UK.
10. Power to provinces
Recently, the Leinster Council shot down a suggestion that Dublin’s footballers may be afforded a bye to the semi-final after counties felt it gave too much of an advantage to the All-Ireland champions. However, Leinster have been at the forefront at taking a hold of their own affairs and last year narrowly failed with their motion calling for the councils to be given the right to form their senior championships. They may be tempted to give it a second try.
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