The GAA's legislators have less than a month to come up with a plan to solve the 'Anthony Nash rule' controversy after deepening the confusion by failing to deal with it at Congress over the weekend.
A proposal, drafted by the Playing Rules Standing Committee, that penalty and close-in free-takers in hurling must be outside the 20-metre line when striking the ball was due to go before Congress on Saturday, only to be withdrawn following discussions at Central Council on Friday night. Instead, it will be revisited by Central Council at a meeting on March 22.
It later emerged that the reason for the withdrawal was a fear that the motion would be rejected.
"Yes, there was a fear that the motion would not get the required two-thirds majority. If that happened, it could not have been addressed by Central Council as Congress would have spoken. Now we are free to discuss it and decide what's the best way to proceed," said director-general Paraic Duffy.
President Liam O'Neill said Central Council would "interpret" the existing rule in order to clarify what is acceptable. The issue has arisen as a result of Nash's ability to gain anything up to six metres between lifting and striking the ball.
The Cork goalkeeper has perfected the art over the past two seasons, leading to claims that it's dangerous for opposing players who are facing his thunderbolt drives from as close as 14 metres.
Under the proposed change, the ball would have to be hit from no closer than 20 metres, forcing the striker to make his run from much further out.
Central Council will face a real problem when they set about 'interpreting' the existing rule, which allows the striker to gain several metres between lifting (on the 20-metre line) and striking. Opposition are supposed to be 20 metres from free-takers but that's not possible since they all gain several metres before striking the ball.
That has led to queries as to whether there would a legal liability if an injury arose from being hit with a ball struck from closer than the rule allows. The GAA's legislators will spend the next few weeks trying to find a solution prior to putting it before Central Council.
The March 22 meeting will also consider the implications of the Congress decision to raise to 16 the eligibility age for inter-county minors. Under existing rule, anybody over the age of 14 could play in the minor (U-18) grade but Tipperary successfully argued (the motion was passed on a 69-31pc majority) that the minimum eligibility age should be raised to 16.
That immediately led to queries on whether this year's minor panels, which may already include U-16s in some counties, would have to be changed. Duffy said it was matter for Central Council but pointed out that deferring the implementation of the new rule until next year was an option.
A Monaghan motion calling for the lowering of the minor age limit to 17 years was withdrawn. Judging by the debate, it was headed for a big defeat if it went to a vote.
O'Neill's announcement in his presidential speech that €1m would be allocated to the development of hurling got an enthusiastic reception, especially among the delegations from Antrim, Carlow, Laois and Westmeath, who will be the main beneficiaries.
"I believe in investing in hurling, not just talking about it. That is why Central Council will now invest €1m in developing hurling. Of this, €900,000 will be spent over a period of five years for the purpose of improving the performance of the senior inter-county teams in Antrim, Carlow, Westmeath and Laois while €100,000 will be invested in player development projects in other hurling development counties," said O'Neill.
He believes that the four specified counties have the potential to improve to the next level, a claim which is supported by the achievement of Carlow champions Mount Leinster Rangers, who have qualified for the All-Ireland senior club hurling final.
Both O'Neill and Duffy were pleased with the introduction of a rule which replaces time bans with match bans at club level. It has been in operation on the county scene in recent years and is deemed to have worked well. It may be more difficult to implement fully at club level but the Croke Park bosses were anxious that it be applied.
They were also pleased with the overwhelming support for the toughening of the rules regarding racist or sectarian behaviour which will now carry an automatic red card for any player who offends during a game. Up to now, it was a yellow card offence.
Duffy expressed disappointment over the failure to pass a motion demanding that players not be allowed to wear jerseys numbered higher than 26 (senior) and 24 (minor). It was proposed that when a player is required to change a jersey due to a blood injury and no numbered replacement is available, the letters A, B, C etc be used on the back of the new jersey.
The Rules Advisory Committee argued that allowing the use of jerseys numbered higher than 26 (senior) and 24 (minor) facilitated the growing practice of team managers deliberately misleading the public by introducing players not named in the programme.
However, the proposal was beaten on 70-30 majority. "Do we really want players running around with A, B, C, D on their backs?" said Cork PRO Tracey Kennedy in the course off the debate.