The GAA’s annual congress was held over this past weekend with former Armagh footballer Jarlath Burns elected to take over the role of association president from 2024. But with over 60 motions up for discussion, what were the big changes and what should we see at local level?
Of note, motion 2 which would have allowed counties to determine their own underage grades, with the stipulation that U14, U16 and U18 competitions plus one more grade above U18 take place, was defeated overwhelmingly 79.4% to 20.6%.
That put in play a number of other age-grade-related proposals to be defeated or withdrawn, including the changing of inter-county minor from U17 to U18 – that was defeated 67.6% to 32.4%.
What may be of assistance to a growing number of county teams is that the rule around U20 players featuring for senior sides has been relaxed. Put forward by Mícheál Ó Máirtín of Wexford, the proposal was to stay with the U20 age grade at inter-county level but ease restrictions to allow players play both U20 and senior, albeit for only one of those teams in any seven-day period. That motion was passed successfully at 82% in favour with 18% against.
In good news for Kerry this year, should the Kingdom win the Joe McDonagh Cup, they will now secure automatic promotion to the Munster Hurling Championship, a route not previously available to them. There will still be 11 teams playing in Leinster and Munster where the team finishing bottom in the six-team round-robin (Leinster or Munster) will be relegated to the Joe McDonagh Cup while the team that wins Tier Two will play in its home province if Munster, if not, they play in Leinster.
For inter-county championship matches, per motion 56, team sheets will have to have to be submitted on Thursday mornings with referees to receive copies 40 minutes prior to throw-in.
Suspensions were a big talking point at congress with 16 of 19 motions in relation to suspensions carried.
Team officials who now interfere with a match official are eligible for a 12-week suspension. Eight and 16-week suspensions are also possible for misconduct by team officials towards an opposing player. The passing of Motion 41 also clarified that any team official cannot manage, direct, assist or communicate with their team in any way before or during the game.
“Very happy with how things went, we got the discipline motions pretty much all the way through, a racism motion fixed from last year and the age grades essentially sorted,” outgoing president Larry McCarthy said.
“I wouldn’t describe them as victories, but I’m quite happy that the discipline stuff came through because we have been pounding this drum for quite a while in terms of respect. This is part of that, elevating discipline and helping referees essentially.”
The cap of 96 weeks as a maximum ban was also removed, the largest band that can now be handed down is an indefinite one.