“We come in peace, shoot to kill/only going forward ’cause we can’t find reverse” went the whimsical yet strangely apt ditty pertaining to the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk et al aboard the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek.
Presuming newly-installed GAA Larry McCarthy has at least one PA he could do far worse than have them print the comical lyrics out and mount them somewhere in his office. The Association he inherited last weekend is nothing like the one generations of us fell in love with in our youth and, in many ways, have come to depend upon in ways which far outweigh the outcomes of what actually goes on between the lines.
However, even though the Cork native representing New York is only days in office, there are already encouraging signs that he will be more proactive in looking after the needs of the entire membership than was his kowtowing predecessor. As evidenced by his almost immediate pledge upon election to press the (ill-fitting) Minister for Sport Jack Chambers to re-start underage GAA activity post haste.
It is a welcome move and one which is only right going by the logic if it’s deemed safe to re-open schools where in a lot of cases students are packed in like sardines in a can, then surely there should be no impediment to letting our young sportspeople out in the open air doing something they love and which would work wonders with their health, both physical and emotional. After all, while the response in the US to Covid-19 could justifiably be labelled calamitous on the watch of ‘The Donald’, it should be noted that there are about 1,500 spectators being permitted in to watch NBA and golf for example. Just because Boris Johnson’s brigade go in a particular direction doesn’t mean Ireland has to follow like a flock of obedient Suffolk ewes.
As for the rest of the Annual GAA Congress – online – there was the usual mix of good and bad. Sense and nonsense. Disappointingly, though it’s hardly a shock, the balance tipped in favour of the latter. There’s no problem with a split season, it’s actually a very positive move. But, is nothing (other than money) sacred in the organisation sacred anymore?
Surely the divided campaign should’ve been structured the other way around. What genius came up with the brainwave of having All Ireland Finals in July? The first and third Sundays in September should be eternally sacrosanct in the GAA calender, as should the All Ireland Club Finals on St Patrick’s Day. Then again, look at the question at the bottom of the last paragraph.
The culprit or culprits were probably the same bright sparks who did away with the Tommy Murphy Cup and the Railway Cup, that are trying to wriggle out of staging the Tailteann Cup and yet haven’t the cajones to get rid of the most pointless wastes of space anywhere on the sporting planet – the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup fiascoes. It’s unlikely there’s a county manager anywhere who’d lose much sleep over their culling.
Even more nonsensical, in my view at least, was the motion to dispense with teams having the opportunity to have a ‘Maor Foirne’ – a runner as they would be called in Australian Rules Football – at their disposal. What harm they were doing to anybody only the man on the moon knows.
Again, those trying to prepare county teams – who have enough impediments thrown in front of them as it is – must wonder what harm having somebody to communicate with their players in packed stadia is going to do and to whom. Managing without them last year was all fine and well when grounds were empty. Maybe teams will have to go down the road adopted by Sir Clive Woodward whilst in charge of England’s rugby team – put microphones in their water bottles!
Likewise, in hurling, why in the name of all that is sane a rule relating to someone waving a hurl in front of a free taker is beyond me. What is the difference in that and a footballer waving their hands in front of a place kicker? Simple answer – there’s none.
In the credit column however, the introduction of a black-card, Sin Bin type stipulation in the small ball code is as welcome as it is overdue. The contention that hurling is a completely separate game to football only holds minimum water. The premise of the playing rules for both is the same. Furthermore, there is palpably more cynicism in hurling than the other game.
Also, the introduction of a penalty as the deterrent for a – whisper it – professional foul, in other words, denying a clear goal scoring opportunity is a step in the right direction and one which actually should’ve been introduced a long time ago. In fact, one would have thought that such an addendum to the Black Card rule introduced after Sean Cavanagh had done a near textbook demonstration of a Sean O’Brien chop-tackle on Monaghan’s Conor McManus some years ago.
Mind you, for me, if I was involved with or a supporter of the great Tyrone man’s team or indeed if it was a player on a side yours truly was connected to or interested in, there would not only be appreciation of such a move there would be an expectation that similar procedures would be engaged in.
All in all, with the exception of the Maor Foirne one, the changes brought about by this year’s Congress seem certainly worth trying. Thankfully, no alteration was made to the Advanced Mark rule. Once more, it will be a case of fighting the tide here, but, the addition of that to the playing rules has to be considered a positive thing as it encouraged teams to play long-ball football, thus bringing high fielding into play once more. The greatest skill in the game.
Are there other experiments which could’ve been tried? Of course. For as long as there’s a pulse in me, hope will be maintained that attempts will be at least made to (a) Ban kicking the ball backwards, (b) limit the number of consecutive handpasses – I’d ban it altogether but the snowflakes would never go for it – (c) that points from sideline cuts in hurling be increased in value to two points, and (d) that there would be at least a chance given to a TMO or VAR or whatever you want to call it.
For now though, merely a match being on would be like Christmas early. Over to you Larry, make it happen!