No more meddling -- Cooney consigned to history
President moving on with old rules until 2015 as experiments
IT will be quite some time before GAA players, managers and supporters have the early months of the year filled with experimental rules and regulations.
It was carnage by the sea in spectacularly beautiful Newcastle, Co Down at the weekend as Congress delegates zapped most the experimental rules which apply in the current National League into oblivion.
Since playing rules can only be amended every five years, no further proposals for change can be put until 2015. However, other experiments -- as with the controversial disciplinary measures which were trialled last year -- can be proposed at any time, but on the evidence of the Congress deliberations, that's most unlikely to happen.
There's a sense that just about everybody in the GAA has grown weary of experiments and since most of them end up in the bin anyway, all they achieve is a disruption of the National Leagues.
The latest batch of experimental rules will apply until the end of the leagues on Sunday week, after which they will be consigned to history. There was no real support for the fist pass or allowing the 'square' ball, but the true level of support for the 'mark' remains unclear.
Central Council's call for its introduction was thrown out on Friday night, but there seemed to be a degree of confusion among delegates as to how best to deal with various variations on the general theme which sought to reward high fielding.
Indeed, former Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns sought to have the issue re-visited on Saturday, arguing that it hadn't been properly debated on Friday night, but he got no support and his request was turned down by President Christy Cooney.
Adjustments were made to some rules and that's likely to be the end of experiments for five years.
"We tried and tested the experimental rules in the National Leagues and the earlier games, so everyone got a good chance to examine them in detail. Congress has made its decisions and we will now move on.
"I would hope everything will now settle down and we can get on with enjoying our games. We have rules in place and now it's up to us to implement them," said Cooney.
The clear sub-text was that he does not want any more meddling for the foreseeable future.
If the rejection of the experimental rules hinted at a conservative streak running through Congress, that was certainly not the case when it came to integrating the GPA as an official part of the GAA or declaring Croke Park ready and open for rugby/soccer business if required. Tyrone's Mark Conway, supported by former President Paddy McFlynn, did his best to dissuade delegates from backing the GPA idea, but never stood a chance.
Conway's decision to deliver his address with his back turned to the top table was hardly calculated to win friends, but he later pointed out that since the Tyrone delegation was in the second row, he turned around to address the general Congress body.
Barack Obama might have got away with it; Mark Conway didn't. Not that he had any prospect of changing the general mood anyway as it has been clear for months that the general GAA membership had bought into the GPA deal.
Cooney said that the GAA and GPA are now working on a developing a comprehensive agreement which will be in place by September.
"Our success in reaching a basis for agreement with our players will be looked on as being of major significance in years to come," said Cooney.
Commenting on the opposition to the deal, GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell predicted that it would dissipate once the many positive aspects became apparent.
"There were a lot of obstacles along the way and there were times when we wondered if we would be able to clear them, but perseverance was the big thing," said Farrell.
Opening up Croke Park for soccer and rugby met with widespread opposition some years ago, but the obvious benefits of the deal which has applied successfully since 2007 meant that a proposal to leave it to the discretion of Central Council to decide on future use of the venue sailed through.
The IRFU and FAI insist they won't require Croke Park once they return to Lansdowne Road this autumn, but the GAA wisely decided to keep their options open anyway.
Cooney's presidential address dealt with general issues rather than delving into controversial areas, but he did deliver a rebuke to clubs and counties who continue to look beyond their own boundaries for managers.
"We must get away from the growing practice of looking outside our clubs and counties for supposed expertise when, very often, the internal option is the one we should be taking.
"In recent years a fascination with external recruitment, particularly at management and coaching level, has taken root in parts of our Association.
"In many cases it is an attempt at a quick-fix solution and one that dilutes the home grown ethos that underpins the GAA," he said.
The decision to back Wexford's motion to introduce a clock/hooter to signal the end of a game for next year's National Leagues could present problems at certain venues, according to GAA director-general Paraic Duffy.
"There's no doubt it could prove tricky as some counties use a few venues for county games," reflected Duffy. "But it's something we will have to work out.".