ONE topic dominated last weekend’s GAA Congress in Derry, but in truth the annual event will be remembered for many other reasons also.
The City of Derry is currently enjoying an elevated status as the 2013 European City of Culture. It was inevitable therefore that the GAA would head north for this year’s Congress.
The main venue for events in Derry during 2013 is an interesting location. One of the largest army bases in Northern Ireland was once located in Derry’s Waterside district, but it is now closed.
A large dome which was used during the 2012 London Olympics was erected at the site late last year and it is now being used to host a wide range of cultural events.
The notion that a GAA event would ever have been held here would have been laughed at just a few years ago. But a lot has changed in Derry and the city is now looking fresh and invigorated.
Given the scale of a Congress agenda, it needs to be well choreographed. If you are not a regular attendee the formal nature of proceedings may not be to your liking.
For more than 12 months the Football Review Committee (FRC) has been travelling the country and they consulted widely.
Irrespective of the views people had of their proposals, no-one could criticise their efforts to bring a varied set of motions before Congress.
In the lead up to Congress reports indicated a growing level of negativity against introducing the black card to penalise cynical fouls.
While the FRC had submitted many proposals, the feeling was that failure to see the black card rule passed would be tantamount to failure.
The talk among Congress delegates on Friday night was that getting a two-thirds majority (required under rule) would be a major challenge.
Aside from a number of football counties who opposed its introduction, the FRC’s concerns were also prompted by a view that a number of strong hurling counties also opposed its introduction.
This was based on a perceived fear that if the black card was introduced in Gaelic football it would only be a matter of time before it was also introduced in hurling.
The mood in the FRC camp may have been somewhat pessimistic on Friday night, so a lot depended on the presentation to Congress delegates on Saturday morning.
That presentation from Paul Earley was impressive and he used a number of video plays to support his argument for introducing the new regulation.
Delegates attending Congress are often mandated as to how they should vote. Some (and Kilkenny regularly adopts this approach) let the debate proceed before forming a view as to how they will vote.
For many years, voting at Congress was a slow and tedious operation. Inaccurate vote counting was often an inevitable consequence of the manual counting process.
The introduction of electronic voting has now radically changed everything. It is hugely impressive, very quick and completely accurate. No voting machine shenanigans here!
The introduction of electronic voting has also added another significant dimension to Congress. It is now virtually impossible to monitor the way delegates vote, so mandating an individual to vote in a particular manner is probably a waste of time.
I wonder if any delegate last Saturday actually voted to introduce the black card when possibly mandated to do otherwise by their county?
Only Tyrone and Cork spoke against the motion. After hearing Paul Earley’s presentation it would have been virtually impossible for any delegate to speak against it.
In the end the motion was carried by a margin well in excess of the two-thirds required. From the beginning of 2014 Gaelic football will be a very different game.
Hurling followers need have no worries about the black card being introduced. Such a proposal would have no chance of succeeding at Congress.