D-day arrives for new rules

THE votes of four counties which have not declared their intentions will decide if the experimental playing rules are adopted at GAA Congress in Rochestown Park Hotel this morning — or else scupper the efforts of the Disciplinary Playing Rules committee.

“The opposition is below one-third, as far as we understand,’’ said committee chairman Liam O’Neill last night. “It rests on the three delegations which are making up their minds — Antrim, Clare and Fermanagh. And we are not certain what Derry are doing yet.’’

While he remains hopeful, O’Neill accepts the reality that their efforts could all be in vain if the “enabling” motion which proposes the addition of Highly Disruptive to the category of fouls covered under rule is not passed.

This will be the first of 15 motions to be debated, and requires a two-thirds majority to succeed. If it is defeated, all of the other motions will fail by default.

According to O’Neill, they will be putting some fresh arguments before Congress in advance of the motion being debated. Pointing out that they visited each of 24 counties which invited them to their meetings and also addressed the British Central Council in Birmingham, he commented: “We have done as much as possible on the information side.

“First of all, we have to bring clarity to the rules — to the list of offences — and we have done that by categorising them as free only, black card, yellow card and red card. We have had a lot of people focusing on inconsistency of refereeing during the league and there was some, but the fact is that for the last 125 years there has been inconsistency right across the board.

“The fact that we have classified the fouls means that everybody — children, adults, pressmen, onlookers — is able to classify a foul when they see it on the field. And for the first time ever they know whether the referee is making the right call or not.

“We have to bring about a situation where referees’ decision-making will be improved and with the use of new technology we will be able to identify those who need up-skilling. Ironically, at a time when we have actually identified the solution and start to put it in place, people are now questioning what we are doing.

“It would be an awful pity if the proposals were to be lost. Not alone will they give us the means by which we can tidy up our games and make them more attractive — as they have been during the league — but it also gives up a chance to tidy up refereeing once and for all.”

Pat Daly, the GAA’s director of games, agreed that the voting will be very close: “It’s going to be a difficult assignment to get two thirds majority. If the rules are not accepted, it will send out the message that the general body of the Association is happy with the current disciplinary system.

“We wouldn’t necessarily see it that way but that would be the message from Congress.’’

Six specific types of disruptive fouling are covered under the motions — briefly relating to (1) pulling down an opponent, (2) tripping with foot or hurley, (3) use of hand or hurley in a careless manner, (4) deliberate body colliding, (5) arm or hurley around the neck and (6) aggressive remonstration with a match official.

Meanwhile, the issue of rugby and soccer being played in Croke Park comes back onto the agenda for the first time since the landmark 2005 decision to “open up” the stadium while Lansdowne Road is being redeveloped. Further rugby and soccer internationals are earmarked for Croke Park before the new Aviva Stadium opens next year, and after that the relevant rule (now Rule 47) will revert to its pre-2005 format. It’s against that background long-time campaigner Noel Walsh submitted a motion through his club, St Joseph’s, Miltownmalbay and the Clare convention to introduce an amendment which would give the Central Council authority on a permanent basis to decide on the use of Croke Park for other sports.

Other motions: l Tyrone will propose that the International Rules Series be continued.

Antrim want the All-Ireland club championships to be concluded before the start of the National Leagues.

The Central Council is in favour of a ban on U-21 players participating in the National Football League while their county remains in the U-21 championship.

Clare and Leitrim want the All-Ireland hurling final to be brought forward to the third Sunday in August. Tyrone favour the last Sunday for the hurling final, while all three counties propose the football final for the first Sunday in September.


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