Chairman ‘mystified’ by 20m free proposals

Cork GAA chairman Bob Ryan reiterated his opposition to proposals to change the way 20m frees are taken in hurling and questioned the timing of such a move.

In his address to the county convention at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday, Ryan said the proposed changes – preventing players from being inside the 20m line when striking the ball – are as a direct result of Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash’s success from close-range frees in the championship.

He proclaimed himself “mystified”, however that such a response should be generated as other players have benefited from similar situations in the past.

“Over the past number of weeks,” he said, “there has been a proposal put forward by a committee in Croke Park.

“This hurling review committee has put forward a proposal with regard to the 20m free in hurling and this proposal has been a source of great mystery to me.

“I pose the question at convention tonight, is it brought forward now because we have a player with the skill of Anthony Nash, who has perfected the taking of taking of 20m frees in the past year?

“I am mystified as to why the rule needs to be changed.

“I’ve heard of no problem over the many years that I have been watching hurling – and I don’t think anyone else has either – when this skill was being practised by great inter-county players of the past.

“Our own Christy Ring did it, Davy Fitzgerald, the current manager of Clare, wasn’t shy to jump over the line, Henry Shefflin, DJ Carey, Paul Flynn and indeed many, many others.

“So I pose the question tonight – why now is there a problem?

“I will hopefully lead strong opposition from this county in response to this proposed change at the upcoming Congress and I’ll be looking for the full support of this board in doing so.”

Ryan also lamented the fact that clubs had prevented their players from lining out in schools competitions and committed to seeking a solution to this problem.

“I am disappointed that clubs have withdrawn players from schools matches when they are in competition. This practice is not in the best interests of the promotion of our games. Compromise is possible in all cases and with the proper dialogue these situations can be avoided.

“I will be engaging with the second-level schools and the clubs to bring about an agreement where this will not happen in the years ahead.”

Seeking to increase participation in GAA in built-up areas is something Ryan also wishes to tackle in his final year as chair, having told delegates that he “won’t be coasting towards the line”.

“The drop in participation in Gaelic games in our cities and large towns is an issue I believe we must give serious consideration to. Even though the clubs in these areas are doing outstanding work in their communities, I believe we must take on new initiatives to increase participation. In Cork, we have an urbanisation committee looking at this situation. The committee is chaired by Denis Coughlan, the former Cork dual star, and it has brought forward some key objectives to help in the participation in these communities.”

Ryan revealed that the committee had proposed that clubs undertake to have street-league competitions for underage players while it is also hoped to have inter-club over-30s competitions, in football in April and May and then in June and July for hurling.

After giving his best wishes to departed football manager Conor Counihan, as well as a number of players who have retired, Ryan expressed the hope that new boss Brian Cuthbert will be given time to bed in by supporters.

“I wish Brian Cuthbert and his new management well in the coming year,” he said.

“I would sincerely ask the football people in this county – who are never slow to give opinion – to give these lads a fair chance. They deserve a chance to blend a new team.”

The convention was quiet on the motions front. County secretary Pearse Murphy will now sit on the competitions control committee after an Aghabullogue proposal, though the other two motions brought by clubs were lost.

Glen Rovers sought to allow clubs to propose playing-rule changes every two years. St James’s had proposal to allow players who have transferred to a single-code club in another county to continue playing for their own club in the other code. This was tied, with Ryan’s casting vote defeating it.

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