Friday 20 April 2018

How can one vote beat two?

Plans to help club players lose out because of GAA's two-thirds majority requirement

Delegates at last weekend's GAA Congress in Carlow where, according to Dublin star Bernard Brogan, club players were 'disregarded again' (SPORTSFILE)
Delegates at last weekend's GAA Congress in Carlow where, according to Dublin star Bernard Brogan, club players were 'disregarded again' (SPORTSFILE)
Peter Keogh, president of the Wicklow County board, walks off the pitch at the end of the game holding his chair, 12 June 2004 Bank of Ireland Football Championship Qualifier, Round 1, Wicklow v Derry, County Grounds, Aughrim, Co. Wicklow (SPORTSFILE)
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

If Bernard Brogan meets Páraic Duffy any time soon, they should have an interesting discussion on who or what exactly constitutes the GAA.

Brogan took to Twitter last Sunday, declaring that he felt "the need to chime in on Congress debate".

And his assessment? "Club footballers disregarded again! GAA rejected moving finals back few weeks!"

We carried his tweet on these pages last Monday under a heading for the Congress report which read: 'Club players will feel a bit let down' - Duffy.

"Club players will be entitled to say: 'what's in all of this for us'," he added.

So there you have it. One of the star players of his generation and the GAA's director-general agree that the Association is getting it wrong on a contentious issue.

Most of Brogan's contemporaries at club level would support his viewpoint, just as many of the GAA's top administrators, led by Duffy and president Aogán ó Fearghail, also believe that club players are being badly treated.

So when Brogan says that "club players were disregarded again'" who is to blame? We're back to who and what constitutes the GAA.


Whether the corrective measures proposed by Duffy, most of which were before Congress last weekend, would do much for club players is far from certain but the reality is that a sizeable majority of delegates backed them.

They supported scrapping replays in all championship games except All-Ireland finals and provincial finals, bringing forward the senior finals by two weeks and abolishing the intermediate hurling and junior football championships.

The average vote in favour of those four proposals was 61-39 per cent - a convincing margin which would be classified as pretty close to overwhelming anywhere else except Congress.

Indeed, there was a clear irony that on a day when the tiniest majorities were deciding who would represent the public in the Dáil, the GAA could not change a rule unless two of out every three backed it.

So as delegates left Congress, just over six out of every ten were disappointed. Is that not an affront to democracy and common sense?

The two-thirds majority was introduced years ago to guard against too many rule changes. It was feared that if a simple majority sufficed, rules could be changed every year, leading to instability.

Granted, it would be unsatisfactory if a rule were introduced this year on a 51-49 majority, only to be thrown out on the same margin next year.

However, there's a massive difference between that and the current 67 per cent requirement, which is ridiculously high. Surely 55 per cent would be adequate.

An attempt to reduce the required majority to 60 per cent came before Congress some years ago but wasn't accepted. But then it needed a two-thirds majority!

If the majority requirement was even at 60 per cent, quite a few proposals designed to help club players would have been passed last weekend.

That should be the cue for clubs to start a movement for change by sponsoring a motion at their AGMs but you can be certain that there were will be little enthusiasm for taking it on.

What happened last weekend will be quickly forgotten as clubs go about their normal business. And therein rests the crux. Brogan referred to club players being disregarded by the GAA but who exactly is that?

The two main administrators, plus Central Council representatives, backed the club-friendly proposals but they still didn't make it.

How many club delegates will raise it at their next county board meeting? And if they don't really care about what happened at Congress, there's no point complaining later on when players are left idle for long periods in summer/early autumn.

Big changes in the GAA almost always originate with the clubs. The removal of the 'Ban' in 1971 and the opening of Croke Park to rugby and soccer in 2005 didn't come about because top administrators drove new policies through but because ordinary club members thought the time was right to introduce them.

So if clubs feel let down by last weekend's Congress, they have the power to make change happen next year. Don't bank on it happening.

Clubs all over the country seem quite content to leave teams idle for very long stretches every year to give the inter-county manager uninterrupted access to players for the duration of the championship.

Sure, they will complain when forced into a hectic schedule later on but it's too late by then.

Ultimately, clubs can change anything if they work at it, including reducing the two-thirds requirement for important decision-making. A proposal to that effect might not make eye-catching headlines but it would be very helpful.

Maybe Bernard Brogan will get Oliver Plunketts to kick-start the process.

Mark my words - this is not such a big change

Relax - it's only a minor adjustment.

Some of the reaction to the decision to introduce the 'mark' in Gaelic football has been a metaphor for our time when perspective tends to be ignored in favour of mass hysteria.

Criticisms have poured in from various quarters, following the Congress decision to introduce a 'mark' to Gaelic football, whereby a player who catches the ball cleanly outside the 45-metre line from a kick-out has the option of taking a free-kick or playing on immediately.

It's not compulsory so the message to players and managers who are opposed is simple: ignore it completely and leave it to those who are interested.

The thinking behind the 'mark,' which was proposed by former Armagh midfielder Jarlath Burns in his role as Playing Rules Committee chairman, is that it rewards high-fielding, a largely dying art in football.

But then there's usually no reward for it, since the fetcher is greeted with a posse of ground forces, who block every escape route.

The 'mark' will be a bonus for a player who makes a high catch.

Since it won't be obligatory to drive the ball past the 45-metre line off a kick-out, current trends won't be interfered with to any great degree.

However, it might just lead to a few more high catches. Now, what in the name of entertainment can be wrong with that?

Peter Keogh: Devoted to Garden County

He never saw his beloved Wicklow win Leinster or All-Ireland senior titles but Peter Keogh's sense of loyalty to his native county could not have been greater if the blue-and-gold were a dominant force throughout his long life.

Peter, who has died aged 86, was one of the best-known figures in Wicklow GAA for decades, combining administrative work with writing and broadcasting in a thoroughly devoted manner that never waned.

If anything, it grew stronger.

He held several top positions with his club, Kiltegan, and Wicklow and also spread the GAA gospel through his writings for the Wicklow People.

Nor was there a Sunday night when he didn't appear on East Coast radio, filling in presenter Michael Sargent on the string of games he had attended over the weekend.

And even if he hadn't been at a game, he would have found out all about it. An eternal optimist where Wicklow was concerned, he always believed that the next day could be the best. He especially enjoyed 2007 when Wicklow won the Tommy Murphy Cup in Croke Park and the 2009 All-Ireland qualifiers when they beat Fermanagh, Cavan and Down in three never-to-forgotten Saturday evenings in Aughrim.

Peter's remains will repose in St Tegan's Hall, Kiltegan today (12noon-9pm).

Funeral Mass in St Brigid's Church, Talbotstown tomorrow (12.0), followed by burial in Tynaclash Cemetery.

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