IMPROVING discipline and getting everybody in the GAA to accept responsibility for their actions are major challenges which the Association has to embrace if it's to avoid future embarrassment similar to what occurred in recent times.
Director-general Paraic Duffy has delivered a stark message to the membership that it carries as much obligation to uphold the rule of law and order as the disciplinary bodies.
The first challenge is to accept that the GAA has a problem in this area, an admission which Duffy readily makes.
"It is clear that we have serious issues of indiscipline to address," writes Duffy in his annual report.
"It was extremely disheartening to witness towards the end of 2011, and at the beginning of 2012, several serious incidents of indiscipline at inter-county, club and third-level games.
"There seems to be a breakdown in discipline towards the end of the year, leading one to wonder if time-based penalties are less of a deterrent in November and December.
"However, that would not explain the incidents that have severely damaged the reputation of the Association since the turn of the year."
While he accepts that the GAA has a case to answer on the disciplinary front, he is critical of some of the media coverage of particular incidents, claiming that it represents a "certain mindset."
Referring to the Derrytresk v Dromid Pearses All-Ireland club JFC semi-final in January, Duffy acknowledges that the game featured "disagreeable incidents which no one in authority in the GAA will seek to minimise" but he questions some of the media coverage.
"The gap between what actually occurred and the presentation of what occurred was conspicuous. The incident became an unmissable opportunity in certain quarters to target the GAA and to indulge in the crudest forms of stereotyping of supporters of Gaelic football," he writes.
"That said, one should not dwell at length on the disparaging caricatures emanating from the minds of the envious, the very coarseness of which is surely a sign of how much the popularity of Gaelic games enrages them."
Duffy also questions whether the GAA's position as an essentially Irish-based amateur organisation militates against it in some quarters.
Commenting on end-of-season national sporting awards, he refers to the "absence of recognition of our players" and wonders whether it's based on a predisposed attitude towards the GAA.
"Might it be that the lack of an international and professional dimension has created a form of condescension towards Gaelic games, or that there is a metropolitan attitude in Dublin-based media towards games with a strong -- although not at all uniquely -- rural following?"
Despite his misgivings about the portrayal of the GAA over some high-profile bust-ups, Duffy accepts that the broader disciplinary area continues to be of concern. He finds it worrying that many GAA members regard good discipline as a matter for others.
"The most disturbing aspect of these incidents is the reluctance of transgressors to accept responsibility for their actions. The GAA is not Croke Park; rather, it is every player who plays our games, every club that enters a team, every official who accepts office, every member who joins his/her local club, every referees who takes the whistle.
"In other words, the GAA exists essentially through those who organise, administer, play and support our games. Each individual is responsible for how he/she behaves in their capacity as a GAA member. It is to them, too, that the questions about responsibility and about remedial action must be addressed."
While the disciplinary tray continues to carry more cases than Duffy would like, he believes the system of administering justice is working well.
Of the 221 penalties proposed by the Central Competitions Control Committee last year, only 29 (13 pc) went to the hearing stage. Of those 29, none was taken to the appeal stage. And, for the second successive year, no case processed by CCCC went on to the DRA.
Discipline is not the only area where there's a greater need for collective responsibility, according to Duffy. He is critical of some GAA members who, he alleges, often put their own interests ahead of the common good.
"There are far too many units, officials, managers and ex-players who are a little too quick to use the media to criticise the Association. One might hope that some of our own members who regularly comment on GAA affairs would give some consideration to the notion of loyalty to the GAA and to the damage that their routinely negative comments cause to the reputation of the Association. It is striking that this negative attitude is not nearly as prevalent in other sports."
He is particularly scathing of the duplicity which has prevailed for many years over payment to managers, an issue which is now high up the GAA's agenda: "It would be a major contribution to honest discussion if those who have been directly involved in paying managers at club or county level could restrain themselves from criticising the Association for attempting to do no more than have an open debate on the issue. That would at least be one piece of hypocrisy we would all have been spared."