Tuesday 24 April 2018

By Congress logic, Kilkenny did win the five-in-a-row

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Cast your mind back to the end of last year's All-Ireland hurling final and the emotional explosion which erupted, not only among Tipperary people in Croke Park but wherever blue-and-gold supporters had gathered around the world.

A first All-Ireland win for nine years, topped up by the added bonus of wrecking Kilkenny's five-in-a-row ambitions, made it doubly sweet for Tipperary.

They had out-scored Kilkenny comprehensively (4-17 to 1-18) so there were no issues over marginal refereeing calls, missed chances or other debating points which arise in close finishes.

Imagine then, the chaos which would have ensued if Kilkenny had been declared the winners. Impossible? Yes, in a logical world where winners are decided on the highest score. No, in the odd world of GAA democracy where losers are sometimes declared winners.

Monaghan's call to guarantee beaten provincial football finalists a minimum break of 13 days before the All-Ireland qualifiers won the vote at last Saturday's Congress on a 60-40pc majority. Translate that to the 33 teams who compete in the championship and it breaks 20-13 in favour of the player-friendly proposal.

It was a comprehensive vote for change but not enough to make it happen, according to democracy, GAA-style.

A rule change requires a two-thirds majority and since Monaghan's motion received only three-fifths, their bid was rejected. Apply that distorted logic to a match and the reigning champions are only beaten if the opposition scores more than 66.7pc of the total tally.


In which case, Kilkenny won the five-in-a-row last September because Tipperary beat them 58 to 42pc of the 5-35 scored. That's 2pc less than the margin by which Monaghan's motion won last Saturday, yet it was deemed a loser.

Votes at Congress might seem largely irrelevant to players who are locked into high-intensity training at present but, in three months' time, two counties from Connacht and Ulster will face the reality of losing a provincial final on Sunday and playing an All-Ireland qualifier on the following Saturday.

Only one team (Dublin 2001) have won in those circumstances since the introduction of the qualifiers 10 years ago, so it's clearly a disadvantage.

It's not an issue for Leinster and Munster as their provincial campaigns finish earlier than Connacht and Ulster.

The obvious solution for Connacht and Ulster is to bring forward their finals, resulting in six provincial deciders (two hurling, four football) on the first two Sundays of July and none on the third.

That's scarcely best practice on the promotional front, and would certainly draw the wrath of the broadcasters who are paying for transmission rights.

Still, that's not the concern of players from Connacht and Ulster counties, who continue to be treated shabbily by the six-day turnaround. And even when a sizeable majority of counties vote for change, it doesn't happen because of the undemocratic two-thirds majority rule.

Incidentally, an attempt was made at a previous Congress to reduce the two-thirds requirement to three-fifths. It was only a modest change but yes, you've guessed, it failed to get a two-thirds majority.

The proposal from Laois to cut the winter training ban in half and allow squads to return on December 1 didn't even get a simple majority, so stand by for more complaints and more hypocrisy at the end of the year.

Team managers will complain that it restricts their capacity to do their job; others will rightly point out that the GAA must be the only organisation in the world which prevents players training at certain times of the year, but most telling of all will be the hypocrisy which surrounds many counties.

The training ban is being circumvented through all sorts of ingenious ruses and since, in many cases, it's happening quite openly, county boards can scarcely claim ignorance.

They can, however, avoid paying expenses since the training isn't allowed by rule.

It was widely expected that the Laois proposal would be accepted, but it was beaten on a 54-46pc vote. So let the record show that more than half the counties voted to retain November-December as training-free months.

'That crowd up in Croke Park' will be blamed by managers when the inevitable rows resurface next winter, but there's no doubt where the real responsibility rests.

That's with county boards, some of whom probably voted to retain the ban but will happily ignore its blatant flouting in eight months' time.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport