Thursday 18 January 2018

Stadia gates opened to facilitate IRFU World Cup bid

Dermot crowe

GAA Central Council has been given the power to authorise the use of Croke Park and other stadia to facilitate the staging of the Rugby World Cup in 2023 or 2027.

Delegates at annual Congress in Derry yesterday overwhelmingly supported a motion enabling the GAA to make their grounds available.

The GAA was acting on a request from the IRFU which is hoping to proceed with an application to stage the money-spinning tournament but needs the option of using GAA grounds to make it viable.

Unlike the divisive debates associated with this issue in the past, this motion breezed through without any dissenting voices.

The only note of caution came from Limerick, who highlighted a lack of support for Gaelic games in some schools in the county. With no objections, the motion quickly proceeded to a vote, with 93 per cent in favour.

A motion seeking to gradually reduce the number of teams participating in the Leinster hurling championship and introduce a qualifying group for weaker counties was passed by a large majority. A qualifying group will feature five counties – Laois, Antrim, Carlow, London and Westmeath. This group will be reduced by one in 2015 and by a further one in 2016.

Concerns were raised by Antrim, Carlow and Laois. Antrim sought an amendment on the basis that the structure proposed did not take stock of how those counties performed. Carlow argued that if they won the next All-Ireland they would still be asked to qualify for the following season's Leinster Championship, with Michael Mealey describing the motion as elitist.

A motion seeking to amend the definition of the tackle, part of the Football Review Committee's (FRC) package, was passed with 72 per cent in favour. The new advantage rule will allow a player five seconds to gain an advantage and a free if no advantage follows. A point with the open hand will now be permitted, getting the approval of 81 per cent of voters.

The public clock can now be used in Croke Park and in all grounds hosting provincial and All-Ireland series championship matches. The clock shall be stopped for injuries and other deliberate or incidental delays, relayed to the clock operator by the referee as he sees fit. The end of the game will be signalled by a hooter but scores already in motion because the ball is in flight will be allowed.

Club games will remain 60 minutes as a motion seeking to extend them to 70 minutes only picked up 16 per cent of the vote. A motion requesting that hurlers remove their headgear during the playing of the national anthem was passed.

In his address to Congress, GAA president Liam O'Neill expressed "abhorrence" at players spitting at opponents. "If a player does it once he deserves a severe punishment. If he does it twice he deserves to be charged with bringing the Association into disrepute."

He described incidents of racial abuse as a "source of huge regret to me" and said their rules must reflect their intolerance of such behaviour. Match-based rather than time-based bans will extend to club competition and additional branding on jerseys will be allowed. A motion seeking to have team managers provide their championship teams four days before the fixture or receive a €500 penalty narrowly failed to get two thirds with 62 per cent support.

Congress had a morning visit from Irish President Michael D Higgins who addressed delegates and talked of the GAA's influence on culture and society. He spoke about the impact of emigration on the "vitality and viability" of clubs particularly in rural Ireland.

Congress strongly endorsed Hawkeye technology which will be trialled in Croke Park this summer to aid score detection. A separate motion to charge sectarian or racist offenders with discrediting the GAA was also successful.

Irish Independent

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