Talking points ahead of the GAA Congress


Could the GAA be set for major changes? David Smith analyses some of the key proposals ahead of next week’s annual Congress meeting.

The GAA Congress takes place next weekend, and several major proposals will be discussed at the meeting, and a new GAA president-elect will be chosen.

There are five candidates for the presidency, and each motion will need a two-thirds majority (67 out of 100 votes) to pass.

Perhaps the biggest motion is the proposal to play extra-time in all championship games that finish level in normal time, excluding provincial and All-Ireland finals respectively. If passed, this rule would eliminate replays, which often upset club fixtures around the country.

This proposal would be a small step towards rejuvenating club football, but will also mean less income from replays for the GAA, which might prevent it from passing.

Another move which could aid club football is the proposal to play both the All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals on or before the last Sunday in August. This would mean that county championships could take place without hindrance in September. This motion could pass, as a similar motion fell just six votes short last time around.

In a move which could dramatically alter the All Ireland Championship, the Central Council have proposed a ‘round robin‘ in place of the football quarter-finals. This new format would involve two groups of four counties, with the top two from each group progressing to the semi-finals. 

This format could act as insurance for provincial winners, who would no longer be eliminated if they lost the game following their provincial final. It has been proposed that this system be introduced on a three year trial basis.

Finally, this system would also see both semi-finals played during a single weekend.

Laois have also proposed the introduction of ‘a round robin’ system. However, the Leinster county have proposed that the first round of the football qualifiers should be replaced by a ’round robin’ featuring four groups of four, with the top two in each group advancing to the next round.

This new layout would involve 24 matches, and while it would benefit counties who are eliminated early on, Laois’ proposal is unlikely to be accepted. Laois secretary Niall Handy told the Irish Independent:

“The three round-robin games would be played over successive weekends so it’s not as if they would cause delays.” 

Galway will ask for their minor, U-21 and intermediate hurling teams to be allowed to compete in the Leinster Championship from now on, as the senior side do. This vote could prove divisive, but all Galway’s teams should be playing in one province, whether it is in Leinster on Connacht.

Carlow have suggested moving the first round of the qualifiers forward to the first weekend in June, which makes sense on paper, as it would shorten the gap between provincial elimination and qualifier entry.

Finally, there are two separate motions to reduce the Congress majority from 67%. Down, Longford, and Westmeath have proposed  that the majority required to change a rule at Congress be reduced to three-fifths (60%), while Tipperary and Leitrim want the majority reduced to half (50%).

However, similar proposals to reduce the majority required have failed in the past.

GAA Director General Páraic Duffy has called on those attending Congress this year to embrace the changes proposed in the document.

The annual Congress is set to take place next weekend at Croke Park.

David Smith