Many a GAA Congress ago, it became apparent that to instigate change, one needed the ice-veined patience of Paul Carberry and the staying power of Tiger Roll. Think of all the alterations which have been applied eventually but had to negotiate several swings and roundabouts before they took effect.
From kicking frees and sideline balls from the hands, to the introduction yellow, red and, yes, black cards,to Rule 42, Rule 21 and on to HawkEye itself. Is there more that could be done – absolutely. The video technology should be in use for far more than score adjudication. And as for the countdown timer, another example of where the LGFA are showing their parralel counterparts the way forward. The less referees have to do the better, for several reasons.
At the moment, the most drastic cosmetic surgery required is in the competition structure department. Not a new problem by any means, but one which is in need of care that becomes more urgent by the day. It has grown even more since last weekend when, predictably but desperately disappointingly, the GAA’s Special Congress voted to reject Proposal B on the Clar. Which sought to revolutionise the way the Association runs its main competitions.
Change that was and is not only desperately needed but wanted by the majority of fair minded, right thinking people. A simple majority, that is. But of course due to archaic rules and grossly outdated mindsets in those working with them, nothing is simple when it comes to the GAA rulebook.
Proposal B – which, to refresh your memory – involves running the provincial championships early in the season and structuring the ‘rest’ of the Championship on a league basis – got the majority of the votes cast, but, conveniently for the anti-change brigade, not the ridiculous two thirds required to ratify change.
In this day and age, surely to make administration easier, regardless of what the issue is, if one option has more votes than the other(s) that should carry the day. Then again, those with the Stone Age mentality – easily identifiable as are the counties they represent – like things just the way they are.
The most important people in the GAA, the players, have clearly indicated their preference for change. That is what should matter most, not what the suit brigade want. To that end, it is lucky and encouraging that the Gaelic Players Association have a man of such unwavering mental strength as Tom Parsons (pictured above) leading their line.
The inspirational Mayo man sent himself to hell and back to get back playing in the green and red and appears to be possessed of similar courage and determination in relation to getting Proposal B over the line. “Don’t tell me we can’t come back with something better by February” was how the former midfielder reacted to the vote going against the wishes of the majority of those who voted.
Naturally, everyone with an interest in GAA, vested or otherwise, is entitled to their opinion. Even if some of them are as predictable as leaves changing hue in autumn. Then there are those who – it can only be assumed purposely – agitate slurry as a means of keeping themselves relevant. Step forward the man who once received a letter simply addressed Pat Bo*****s, Co Kerry. That it got straight to its target probably tells you all you need to know.
As usual, Mr Spillane’s utterances were totally designed to absurdly play to the gallery. A ‘change is needed but not that change’ bull dung effort. Of course anything that would leave football more open and competitive mightn’t sit too well in The Kingdom. Simply as, admittedly surprisingly given the level of success enjoyed at Minor level, they have not been able to get over the line on the biggest day since 2014.
Peter Keane undoubtedly took the fall for that, scandalously so. But what Kerry’s shortcomings in most recent times also do is highlight the lack of follow through at U-20 level and, indeed more significantly, the continuing importance of the aforementioned grade as a pathway to the highest level.
It’s very easy to point out the flaws in something but there’s not a lot of merit in doing so if you don’t have a counter measure to put in its stead. Proposal B is the best alternate route anybody has advanced to date.
All the relevant boxes are ticked. The sacred cows that are the provincial championships are protected,the National League actially takes on greater relevance as it is inter-linked with the Championship and, of the greatest importance, it offers a tiered championship to counties who haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of realistically competing for the Sam Maguire.
Experience has shown that a line or two put in or taken out here and there can steer these things home. What the aversion to change is in football comparable to hurling is difficult to fathom. After all, the small ball code has incorporated the Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cup competitions and streamlined the divisions of the National League so as to ensure – insofar as is possible – fair and balanced fixtures for all teams.
Are there a few other bits and pieces that could be tweaked in hurling that could make it even better? I believe so. Scores from sideline cuts should be worth at least two points, and perhaps consideration could be given to some form ‘Mark’ in hurling. High fielding in the small ball code is, after all, even more impressive than in football.
For now though, hopefully Conor O’Donoghue and the rest of the committee and Parsons and his people can work in tandem to bring about the necessary and desired change. To the betterment of everyone in the game and the game itself. Should they encounter resistance again – quite likely – they could do far worse than consult that great pioneer of player representation, Donal Og Cusack as to how to get a shade more militant in their offensive action if they meet further roadblocks on their journey to common sense and needed restructuring.
Methinks, though, that it could be a case of using the tagline from the old Bulmers advert – All in its own good time