Delaney slams disciplinary code

MICHAEL DELANEY has never been afraid to speak his mind. As far back as 1991, when it would have been a taboo subject for a leading GAA official, the Leinster Council Secretary suggested that consideration should be given to renting out Croke Park for rugby and soccer games.

Now, in his current report, he takes a swipe at new disciplinary procedures recently announced, expressing amazement the new code has drastically reduced the minimum suspensions in many instances.

“With all the publicity in the past year about indiscipline in games, brawls in club and county matches, abuse of referees and match officials and an apparent breakdown of law and order in the association, one would have been forgiven for thinking that stringent measures would be introduced to stamp out, or at least discourage, these indiscretions,’’ he writes.

“That line of thought would have been way off the mark.’’

For instance, he points out that the minimum penalty for striking with the hurley or kicking has been reduced from 12 weeks to four. And, while there is a distinction between “with force” or “with minimal force”, he feels referees and disciplinary committees will be put under pressure, saying: “History and human nature tells us which of these descriptions will apply in both instances.’’

He says there are “disturbing signs” referees’ decisions will not be accepted when put under scrutiny: “This is a dangerous trend and must be monitored carefully by Central Council.’’

Mr Delaney also expresses concern about the influence of county managers. “It is vitally important that all our decisions are made within our own official structures. The emergence of ad hoc groups like county managers must be resisted in the area of administration of our games. Their recent intervention in regard to the new match regulations was disturbing,’’ he states.

“Likewise, they now seem to be focusing on telling referees how they should do their jobs. That is not their responsibility and any further attempts to influence this area — or any other of like nature — must be resisted.”

Elsewhere in his report, he warns any lessening of the profile of the Dublin football team would have a serious impact on finances of the council. In essence, he says the provincial hurling championship is “practically extinct”, while the football championship has “lost much of its charm”.!

With Congress due to debate motions on changing the formats of both All-Ireland championships in April, he expresses the hope that whatever structures are agreed will be given a minimum of five years to settle down.

“In this talk of change of systems, very little reference is made to the effect on provincial senior championships,’’ he writes. “These once-great flagships of the association are fast diminishing. The introduction of the qualifiers has had a detrimental effect on these championships. This is neither a criticism of the qualifiers nor a plea for another change of direction — it is merely a statement of fact.’’

In terms of the Leinster hurling championship being extinct, Mr Delaney says the recent domination by Kilkenny is only partly the reason. “There is virtually no incentive for our other counties — apart from local pride — to concentrate on anything but the qualifier and All-Ireland series.

“The Leinster football championship has lost much of its charm. The emergence, a few years ago, of a couple of new Leinster champions proved a false dawn — they were immediately swallowed up in the extended qualifiers by counties already knocked out of their own provincial championships.

“Apart from Dublin games in Croke Park, the public are apathetic about our games. The frightening thing is that if Dublin hit a trough, or go out early, it will have serious financial implications for our Council.’’

He points out that there was a bigger crowd at the O’Byrne Cup first-round game on January 6 between Wicklow and Carlow than their meeting in the championship last summer.

“What was the difference? Okay, it might have been something to do with the team management, but another major difference was that the O’Byrne Cup was knockout.

“County boards may not dwell too deeply on all of this, but perhaps a word of caution is now in order. If the Leinster Council income drops, it will have a knock-on effect on games development and physical development support in our counties.’’

l One motion was submitted, from Naomh Moninne club in Louth. It proposes a North Leinster hurling team (with players from Louth, Meath, Longford and Westmeath) compete in the Walsh Cup next year.

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