GAA National Congress has always been a huge part of life within GAA circles. People involved in Gaelic Games from all over the world gather to discuss the relevant topics of the day and when the need arises elect a new President.
This year was no different; a lot of hype, huge coverage both from the written media and from television but what really was achieved or is it really a public relations exercise for the GAA.
Many will argue that the real power within the GAA rests with the Central Council and the Management Committee in Croke Park.
If there is a topic that is sensitive in any way it usually ends up before the Management Committee.
Take, for instance, what has become commonly known as the ‘Anthony Nash motion’. For those who didn’t see much of last year’s hurling championship Anthony Nash played in goals for Cork seniors.
He had a certain skill when it came to close-in frees, when he would lift the sliothar; he would throw it forward and by the time he would strike for goal he could be four or five metres closer to goals giving him and Cork a huge advantage.
To be fair to the match officials there was little they could do because he was within his right to do what he was doing. But because it could be considered dangerous, the playing rules standing committee decided to put a motion forward stating that the free taker must strike the ball before the 20m line.
On the Friday night before Congress, maybe fearing the motion would be defeated, it was decided that the motion would be withdrawn and Central Council would discuss the matter.
Why? What did people fear? Is it not the same as any other rule that was put before Congress?
To me it looked as if the hurling people in the Association would not be overly enthusiastic about football counties deciding on rules for the hurlers or maybe it might just come across as an anti-Cork motion which might not go down well in the southern capital.
I am confused a bit. I have always taken it for granted that any free kick, regardless of whether it was football or hurling, that the free would be taken from the spot where the free was conceded.
I understand that hurling is a bit different but the power should be with the referee in charge. If he considers that the player is taking too much of an advantage then he should have the power to stop the player and make him retake the free.
I can assure you that if it was done a couple of times then I would have no doubt that players wouldn’t be long working it out about taking the free from the right spot.
But Congress didn’t get to vote on it. They were left with safer motions that were never in any doubt.
Of course, a couple might not get passed but the vast majority could have being conducted at a local club meeting and the results would have been the same.
We are told that we are a democratic organisation and for the best part we are. Everyone who conducts business at Central Council or provincial level have worked their way up from club level; they have served their time and a GAA to the core but when it comes down to the real nitty gritty stuff, Central Council decide and that’s that.
To be fair I don’t have a major problem with that because most, if not all ,decisions taken are for the better. We elect these people to do a certain job and we have to trust that they do what is best for everyone but if they step out of that brief we have to be brave enough to ask the question and they who sit on these committees must be always aware that there are people out there who are prepared to ask those hard questions.
Congress is a integral part of GAA life but if we continue to just seem to go through the motions and when a particular topic arises that we send it to a committee we lessen the importance of such a gathering,.
We need to be able to discuss all the hot topics regardless of the sensitivity or political correctness and if we allow that to happen then maybe then the majority of club members around the country would take a interest.
The Railway Cup (Interprovincial) final was played last weekend in front of about six hundred supporters in Tuam.
Connacht gave Ulster a bit of a hiding and secured their first win in 49 years. I have no doubt that the players would have relished the occasion and the honour of winning a Railway Cup medal but has the time come to call it a day.
Considering the constraints that county managers are putting on their players when it comes to playing for their clubs should the Association be freeing up a couple of weekends every year to facilitate this forgotten competition.
I know the players love playing for their province and I have no doubt it has support from a small section of good GAA people but with the introduction of the back door system a few years back; the international rules series, club fixtures, free weekends for county training camps, national league, provincial championships, All-Ireland series, Sigerson and Fitzgibbon cups, there is only so much can be done.
The time might just have come to let that one go.