With so much happening last weekend the GAA Congress didn’t get the attention that maybe it deserves. Many would feel that Congress is outdated and it obstructs progress within the organisation; others swear by it.
If there was one thing I feel should be changed about the entire process would be having to get a two thirds majority to pass anything. It is not democracy as we have been told on many occasions that we are all part off.
When it all comes down to it, you vote for whatever suits your county and to hell with anyone else. Whether it is for the good of the game is not relevant. Most of the talk going into the weekend was about player welfare, player burnout and, of course, the problem of finding time for club fixtures.
The player burnout and welfare problem, they have addressed by doing away with minor and U-21 competitions to be replaced by U-17 and U-20 grades, The minor one seems straightforward; the fact the competition runs at the same time as the Leaving Cert makes it look like a good option but has the Leaving Cert not being on the go for over 40 years. A bit slow about the change there lads, so I am not too sure about that one.
The U-20 competition is going to be played in July and August which will certainly rule out any club football or hurling in those two months.
A couple of good ideas that were shot down by the delegates at Congress and were part of a plan put forward by Paraic Duffy will leave club players in no doubt that they are second class citizens within the GAA.
Mr Duffy, to be fair to him, sees the problem and knows something needs to be done about it now rather than later. I listened to Paraic Duffy in an interview on Newstalk about the plight of many clubs and how they were losing their players because of the total lack of games in the summer months and then playing off the club championships in successive weeks. He put forward the idea of extra-time if any provincial championship game ended in a draw; shot down. I wonder why? No money in extra-time lads; get them all back another day.
He also suggested that both the hurling and football finals be brought forward two weeks allowing a couple of extra weekends for the clubs to run off their fixtures; shot down. Why? Who knows; maybe it’s a traditional thing; maybe the delegates have business in Dublin those particular weekends and it suits them but the lack of common sense at times defies logic. One thing is for certain, the club player was let down by those who attended and voted.
When they discussed player burnout there was very little chat about doing away with meaningless competitions like the McKenna or O'Byrne Cups or the FBD league. There was very little chat about running the U-21 games on a Wednesday night between National League fixtures. There was little talk of the amount of training our young players are having to do. They didn’t address the fact that many young intercounty players are having to tog out for maybe five or six different teams and having to keep every manager or trainer happy.
The physical and psychological strain being put on our younger players has become so debilitating, surveys have shown that it has impacted significantly on their day-to-day lives. Yet no one feels the need to address these issues. It makes you wonder if the old Congress weekend is just another excuse to have a bit of a party.
Very few league games ever match the intensity or the commitment of a championship game. Last Sunday’s encounter with Mayo certainly came close. From the minute the ball was thrown in no side relented in their determination to come out on top. Mayo came to Ballybofey not only looking for a performance but also needing the two points. Donegal, on the other hand, have had a great start to the league and their form up until the two week break has been exceptional.
Mayo, at times, looked as if they were going to steamroll Donegal but some great frees from Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty kept us in the game. Mayo found a lot of space in the Donegal defence and I have no doubt it will be something the Donegal management will want to address.
Donegal were certainly not at the level they were against Cork. However, I think that had more to do with Mayo. They tackled Donegal hard; they afforded us very little space and the Donegal runners were being picked up and closed down with great effect. It wasn’t until some of the more experienced players like Leo McLoone, Anthony Thompson and Rory Kavanagh got to grips with the game that we looked as if we could get a result and McLoone’s goal was an exceptional team score.
The two McHughs, Ryan and Eoin, looked sharp throughout. Mac Niallais kicked a couple of good points and the performance of Rory Kavanagh would have proved a lot of the doubters wrong. Paddy McGrath had probably his best performance in a Donegal shirt. If there was a negative out of last Sunday’s game it most certainly was the reaction of the awarding of the penalty. Regardless of whether the ball was out or not or whether or not you think it was a penalty, the sight of at least ten players surrounding a referee does not reflect well and it could have further consequences when other referees view the incident. I would not want it coming back to bite us somewhere else down the line.