Saturday 21 April 2018

Martin Breheny: Why did it take nuclear option to solve Camogie row?

GAA director-general Páraic Duffy
GAA director-general Páraic Duffy
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

If the camogie stand-off and capitulation hadn't coalesced into such a dreadful mess, a suspicious mind might well have deduced that it was part of a plan to attract publicity for the sport.

Of course, it wasn't.

The Camogie Association's bizarre decision to draw lots between Clare and Dublin to decide which advanced to the All-Ireland quarter-finals was real.

For reasons that bear no relation to logic, it was the official method of separating teams that finished level in a qualification group where the counties involved had drawn their game.

If either Clare or Dublin had won the head-to-head and still finished level on points in the qualification group, the winner would go through to the quarter-final. However, once Clare and Dublin had drawn their game and later finished level on points, drawing of lots entered the ridiculous equation.

Why not scoring difference, with all their results in the group taken into account?

The announcement by Clare and Dublin that they would withdraw from the All-Ireland race rather than have their fate decided by drawing lots threw the championship into chaos.

There was always the possibility that other counties would become involved, since nobody wanted to see a team exit the competition because of bad luck in a draw.

And even if there wasn't a boycott, the 2015 championships would have been devalued by Dublin or Clare being forced out in bizarre circumstances.

The Camogie Association knew how high feelings were running, yet they were all set to proceed with the unfairness until Clare and Dublin pressed the nuclear button.

Suddenly, the Association found a way to bend its own rules by making provision for a play-off.

If it were possible to do so under duress, why not move earlier and defuse the controversy?

Now that a pretty obvious solution has been found, the issue of governance needs to be addressed.

The decision to draw lots in situations where counties finished level in qualification groups was taken late last year by the Association's Ard Chomhairle.

Why wasn't there an outcry from all counties back then? Or was it a case of 'sure it won't happen to us' so why bother?

Over the years, I have heard GAA director-general Páraic Duffy and his predecessor Liam Mulvihill point out to Congress the long-term implications of some motion that might have looked unimportant and which wasn't getting much attention from delegates.

However, they would be the first to complain when the motion impacted negatively on their particular county at some stage in the future.

Obviously, the GAA has nothing to do with the organisation of camogie but the lessons are similar: always examine the implications of a decision at the time it's being taken, rather than waiting until it impacts directly on you much later on.

Irish Independent

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