Despite strong opposition from Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick and the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) at Saturday’s Annual Congress, the sin bin will be a feature of inter-county this year.
With a three-fifths majority of delegates’ support being required, the motion was narrowly carried by 61% of delegates endorsing the measure, which will come into force for this season’s Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues and the Championship on an experimental one-year basis.
It means that should a defending team commit a prescribed cynical foul inside their 20-metre line or the semi-circle that prevents a goalscoring opportunity it will result in a penalty puck/kick and the offending player being sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
Kilkenny and Westmeath’s vocal opposition against the motion was slightly surprising given it was their Central Council delegates, along with outgoing GAA trustee and former Tipperary chairman John Costigan, who convinced John Horan that the proposal be discussed at the weekend as a matter of urgency.
Several of those who spoke against it, such as Limerick and the GPA, called for it to be postponed until Special Congress as it was subjective (Limerick) and contentious (GPA), while Kilkenny chairman Jimmy Walsh argued the punishments were excessive and there were grounds for them to be amended.
However, a powerful oration by Costigan who said cynicism was an affront to the art of good defending, followed by endorsements of the motion by Cork chairman Marc Sheehan, Offaly chairman Michael Duignan, and Connacht secretary John Prenty, Waterford and Wexford indicated sufficient support for the motion.
That was in spite of technical issues, which beset the incorporeal Congress throughout proceedings, and prevented video footage showing examples of cynical fouls that prevented goal chances being shown sufficiently.
On a remarkable day, all 38 motions on the Clár were backed, a likely unprecedented event for an Annual GAA Congress if not a Special Congress. The cynicism motion was one of the eight motions put forward by the standing playing rules committee.
They included effectively the disbanding of the maor foirne as no individual other than a medic can now enter the field during a game, the concussion substitute and punishing those players who attempt to distract or interfere with puck-out, sideline and freetakers by jumping up and down, waving hands or hurley, or any other physical or verbal interference. Punishment will be served in the form of a free being brought up 13 metres as far as the 20m line.
The sin bin was just one of two motions that actually went to a vote — the others were given the green light “by acclaim”. The national fixtures review committee’s call for a cap of 16 teams to be put on senior club championships, due to come into force by 2023, received two-thirds support in spite of Galway and Dublin opposition. Cork backed the motion although Sheehan received assurances from GAA director of club, player and games administration Feargal McGill that colleges and divisional teams could still be facilitated.
However, the decision, which could have serious knock-on effects for the likes of Galway and Tipperary, the latter who were in favour of it, has been condemned in some quarters.
Galway hurling chairperson Paul Bellew tweeted: “Irony is we’re more likely to end up playing 10 rounds to complete a 16-team championship rather than eight weeks to complete a 24-team one so we can give teams and players a minimum amount of games. Madness!”
The path has also been paved for the split-season as the All-Ireland finals must now conclude by the 29th Sunday of the year, which next year falls on July 18. Heralding the decision to incorporate a split season, the Club Players Association posted on Twitter: “At last. Split season. Everyone finally arrives at the same destination. Four years on. We fought for fixtures & kept the faith. Looking forward now to a better GAA for all players. Thanks to all who stuck with it & to Declan Brennan who got the ball rolling!”
Other national fixtures review taskforce proposals to pass were the end of the U20 All-Ireland hurling semi-finals (All-Ireland finals will see Munster and Leinster champions face off), restrictions being put on senior inter-county hurlers lining out for their county’s U20 team in the same year and the restoration of the All-Ireland Junior Football Championship, which over a weekend will involve a native New York, Kilkenny, and the British champions and runners-up.
Also, deadlines for the post-primary school championships (March 17), Fitzgibbon Cup (eighth Sunday of the year), and Sigerson Cup (seventh Sunday of the year) have been put in place.
Meanwhile, the Irish Examiner can report Derek Kent will chair the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) as new GAA president Larry McCarthy has appointed a female to each of the main three games administration bodies.
Mary Judge (Galway) will join Kent on the CCCC along with Cork’s John Halbert, former Donegal and Meath football stars Martin McHugh and Seamus Kenny.
Meath solicitor Brian Rennick heads up the Central Hearings Committee and will work with Aoife Farrelly (Meath), Micheál Óg McMahon (Monaghan), Denis Holmes (Limerick), and Tod O’Mahony (Mayo).
Westmeath solicitor Matt Shaw swaps positions with Rennick and returns to the Central Appeals Committee chair where he will work alongside Julie Galbraith (Donegal), Neil Sheridan (Mayo), Willie O’Connor (Kerry) and Tom Farrell (Westmeath).
On Saturday, Kerry’s John Joe Carroll and Kilkenny’s Ned Quinn were voted in as trustees of the GAA and will take up positions on the association’s management committee. They replace McCarthy and Costigan who completed their three-year terms.