Motions from the 2012 GAA Congress

April 24th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

The big news from the recent annual GAA Congress was the appointment of Liam O Neill as President of the association. O'Neill from County Laois was installed at the annual Congress in Killenard.  He takes over from outgoing President Christy Cooney who used his speech to urge the introduction of tighter rules on payment to managers. This payment to managers is a real hot potato for the incoming man and it will be fascinating to see how he resolves it. While there is no doubt that some, not all county managers are being well paid I believe that an even bigger problem is the payment of club managers/trainors. This is growing trend as clubs strive to attain success for their teams at senior level. How will Liam o Neill address the club problem? Only time will tell.

The GAA was boosted by the news recently that Etihad Airways had signed a new five year, multi million sponsorship deal to back the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship and the new Etihad Airways Skywalk at Croke Park stadium. O'Neill focused in his speech on three areas.  First was the need for better discipline and the recruitment of referees.  Second was the importance of managing finance, pledging assistance where needed in terms of fundraising initiatives, accounts management and advice.  The third was the recruitment of new members and volunteers, learning from the work done by overseas clubs and units.

A motion was passed making it obligatory to wear mouth guards at all levels of the game, (we will return to this at a later time) though one allowing up to four sponsors appear on a county GAA shirt was withdrawn. And then also passed was the motion in relation to the square ball rule. And boy in my opinion there is going to be some fun in the forthcoming championship if the new rule is introduced for this competition. Yes it has been passed but no final decision has been announced as to when it comes into force.

It's very simply really. As soon as the attacking player kicks the ball towards the opponent's goal the attacking players are now allowed to be INSIDE THE SMALL SQUARE before the ball reaches that area. However if the ball is kicked in directly from a free the old rule stands and then attacking player IS NOT allowed in the square before the ball. I believe we are going to see some very debatable goals allowed and indeed it is going to cause a lot of controversy as the big attacking men gear themselves up to follow instructions from their managers as to where they will place themselves as the high ball lands in the square. Or it might even be the ground ball.

Picture the scenario. Kerry three or four points down, as the clock moves towards full time. A goal is badly needed to bring them back into the game. Darren o Sullivan hares up the sideline in Croke Park, Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper have discussed this very situation in training with their team mates. Now it's all about perfect timing, Daren floats in a lovely diagonal center towards the railway goal from the Hill Sixteen corner, as the ball leaves his boot the two Kerry men make their move. Now they are standing directly under their opponents cross bar, the goalkeeper is frantically trying to make a bit of room for himself, the defenders have followed their men into the small square, the ball arrives at the jostling and shoving begins. Now it's a simply case of who will get a hand or fist to the ball. The goalkeeper will suffer most of all. The attacking player is allowed to make body contact with the goalkeeper when he is NOT in possession of the ball so provided there is no blatant pushing one way or another which is spotted by the referee the odds are stacked against the defenders.  

Any manager/trainor worth his salt will have plans made to exploit this new rule, you can be full sure this will receive full debate at county training sessions and it is not good news for goalkeepers. It's really going back to the sixties when it was premissable to make full contact with the goalkeeper and from my own experiences in that position the high slow dropping ball into the square was a nightmare. So do I exaggerate? Of course only time will tell but it is a massive change. And to think that the rule was changed because umpires, two at each goal, men who we were told receive special training could not spot a player in the square before the ball. They left their side down badly and their failings have resulted in a vital rule change. There were some hugely controversial square ball decisions over the last few years that cost counties their place in all Ireland semi finals and finals. Maybe this will help eliminate all that controversy, I don't know however it could well be a case of "out of the frying pan into the fire". It will be intresting to see the big men invade the square some Tuesday evening in an East Kerry junior game, god help the goalie there. 

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