Congress grapples with the ‘melee’

The Oxford English Dictionary makes no attempt to quantify how many people it takes to constitute a melee but a few hundred men and women of the GAA will be asked to take up that slack when they meet at Annual Congress later this year.

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald gets between Aidan Nolan and Tipperary's Jason Forde. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

“A confused fight or scuffle”, or “a confused crowd of people” is how the world’s pre-eminent dictionary — first published in 1884 — describes a melee. Now the thorny question as to what actually quantifies one is finally about to be grasped.

“The following definition will quantify a melee in relation to GAA disciplinary matters,” reads motion 21, which has been put forward by Newport GAA club in Tipperary.

“A melee shall be defined as a minimum of five persons.”

The motion is one of just 42 that have been formally accepted on to the clár for the 2018 Congress later this month and it arises directly from the incident between Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald and Tipperary player Jason Forde last year.

Fitzgerald earned an eight-week ban for his actions when encroaching on to the pitch during the counties’ league semi-final. Forde’s two-game suspension for assaulting an opposition mentor was quashed on appeal but he was then charged with contributing to a melee.

Whatever their contretemps happened to be at the time, it clearly wasn’t a melee in anyone’s understanding of the word — hence Tipperary’s attempt now to address a matter which has also attracted the attention of Central Council.

One of their 15 motions will address this by adding a sub-paragraph to the list of infractions in the rule book. It will deal with “minor physical interference (eg laying a hand on, pushing, pulling, or jostling) with an opposing team official either on or off the field of play”.

Both motions are fairly typical of what should be a low-key Congress concerned largely with matters to do with rule book technicalities given issues such as the Sky TV deal and further playing rule changes are inadmissible according to rule.

Three counties had proposed motions to end all dealings with subscription-based TV companies but these were all ruled out on the basis that they were more or less carbon copies of the one tabled by Dublin in 2016.

With that proposal receiving less than one-third support at the time, none of the same bent can be allowed onto the floor for another three years unless the Management Committee gives the green light in “exceptional circumstances”.

So, first on the agenda will be a Central Council motion calling for “sponsorship by a betting company of any competition, team, playing gear, or facility to be prohibited”. At present, no county teams are sponsored by betting companies.

How much of a relationship exists at club level is all but impossible to say but the GAA’s health and community manager Colin Regan has spoken about how it would nonetheless be best practice to eliminate any tenable link at one swift stroke.

Motion 7 will, if passed, allow individual counties determine their own internal underage grades for competition purposes from U21 all the way down to U11s. This would not affect the inter-county grades as they have been reconstituted.

The first of the motions from around the country to be dealt with will be that from the Wolfe Tones club in Clare, suggesting that only a full member who has paid an annual subscription by the due date can serve as a manager, coach, or selector with that unit.

That should make for interesting debate, at the very least.

The Club Players Association has offered two motions up for consideration for Congress.

The first is calling for the All-Ireland football championship quarter-finals to be completed “on or before, but in any event not later than, the second Sunday in July”.

The other is a call for each delegate’s vote at an Annual or Special Congress to be recorded, the result of each vote to be announced, and the record of how each delegate voted to be published in the minutes of the gathering.


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