Tuesday 20 February 2018

Money talks as Congress shows contempt for clubs

Mikey Harte, Tyrone manager. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Mikey Harte, Tyrone manager. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

If anybody has any doubts about the power and influence of money in Irish sport right now they should study the events at the GAA Congress over the weekend.

Some of the motions directly involved more serious money coming into the GAA, namely the decision to continue to allow Sky have exclusive pay-to-view coverage of 14 games, and also the decision to reject a motion from Páraic Duffy himself that would have meant the vast majority of senior championship games would have extra-time in the event of a draw.

The Sky deal is done and dusted by now despite the genuine concerns of many people about thousands of GAA followers not being able to watch big games live.

But the motion about drawn championship games was meant to create more space for club games in different parts of the country and one would have expected delegates to Congress, if they are sincere about helping club activity, to back that proposal.


A draw in the provincial championship can seriously upset local club competitions at the height of the season but I have always questioned the sincerity of county board officers in most counties to help solve fixture problems and this decision bears that out.

I wonder too how the delegates representing the four provincial councils, the biggest beneficiaries of drawn games, voted on this particular motion? Guess!

And of course the recent decision to bring Bruce Springsteen concerts to Croke Park is purely for financial gain, even though it seriously upset already pre-arranged club fixtures that had been made in Dublin that weekend.

The decision to bring the 'mark' into Gaelic football was passed narrowly, having just failed three years at the black card Congress.

However, it is a very limited version. Previous discussions had sought to use the mark as a means of eliminating short kick-outs by insisting they should pass the 45-metre line before qualifying for a mark which a lot of people seemed to favour.

But now we can expect team managers as usual will try to thwart the mark by discouraging kick-outs to the midfield area, thereby largely undermining the new idea that so many fans wanted to see tried out.

Interestingly, two prominent Ulster GAA people, Mickey Harte and Oisin McConville, have rubbished the notion of the mark.

The decision to change the age limits for young players from U-18 to U-17 and U-21 to U-20 is the first small but very important effort to prevent the abuse of such players in January and February competitions but also throughout the year but of course it only applies to inter-county games which still leave abuse open at club level.

The welfare of students sitting for the Leaving Cert was the pre-eminent factor as regards the U-18 change and many parents around the country will be very relieved at this change.

Some minor county managers have been the worst offenders in abusing their players as regards training prior to exam time.

By the way another good idea from Duffy, to bring forward the All-Ireland finals in hurling and football by two weeks in order to make more room available for the clubs in September was also turned down by delegates, the majority of whom again showed their contempt for helping out club football and hurling in summer months.


I have always believed there is too much democracy in the GAA and not enough executive decision-making and it has cost the GAA dearly.

Combined with the outdated rule that requires a two-third majority to change a GAA rule, it means that many necessary changes are shot down, very often for selfish and parochial reasons.

Last weekend was no different and this sort of behaviour is the biggest obstacle to having more very good ideas passed at the Congress, often to the detriment of the GAA nationally.

Changing that two-thirds rule would be the most important change the GAA could make for its short- and long-term future but don't hold your breath!

Irish Independent

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