Aside from the selection of the President-elect who will assume office in 12 months time, GAA annual Congress was a low-key event.
Important business was undertaken, though, but the weekend was devoid of any debate. Many motions sailed through without discussion.
The feeling among delegates in Croke Park on Friday afternoon was that Cavan’s Aogán Farrell would become the first person from his county to be elected GAA President, and on the first count. The speculation was well-founded. The Cavan man amassed an impressive 170 votes to 83 for Wexford’s Sheamus Howlin and 57 for Kerry’s Sean Walsh.
He will become the GAA’s 38th President in February 2015.
The President-elect is a native of Maudabawn, a rural area close to Cootehill. His club Drumgoon Éire Óg were the first ever winners of the All-Ireland junior club football championship. He is the Principal of Dernakesh national school, where he was once a pupil.
He served as club secretary throughout the 1980s; served on Cavan County Board for 12 years in various roles, including Irish officer, Development officer, secretary of the Cavan Centenary Year Committee (1984) and he was his county’s representative to the Ulster Council.
He was a member of the Ulster Council for 25 years (1989-2014), serving in all officer roles - PRO from 2001-2004, treasurer from 2004-2007, vice-chairman from 2007-2010 and President from 2010-2013.
At national level, he has served on the PR and Presentations Committee, the Central CCCC, Coiste na Gaeilge and the Strategy Implementation Committee. He was chairman of the Information Technology Committee and served on the GAA’s Management Committee from 2010-2013.
With that level of experience and background the 38th GAA President has an impressive CV. We can expect a seamless hand-over from Liam O’Neill this time next year.
The concerns I recently expressed regarding the comprehensive report from the GAA Director General not receiving much attention from delegates was correct. The discussion on the report involved no more than 12 delegates. While the issues raised all had relevance, I suspect Padraic Duffy would have liked a more robust discussion.
An interesting dimension to Congress was the listing of three issues for general discussion. These covered a review of the GAA’s organisational structures; whether the GAA might eliminate clubs from provincial championships (in the future) if their county championship programme was not completed on time and approval to continue the integration discussions with camogie and ladies football.
GAA senior officials will have welcomed the feedback which will help enable wider debate on all three topics in the year ahead.
Thirty-eight motions came via central committees with Cork’s Frank Murphy, who chairs the Rules Advisory Committee, outlining the rationale behind each one.
After a brief explanation most of those motions sailed through. For much of the time there was an eerie silence in the room as they were briefly explained, to be followed by the electronic voting. The process of using electronic voting to measure the level of support for a motion is highly impressive. It ensures that there is no debate on the outcome of any vote.
From a hurling format perspective, if a team from the provincial Qualifier defeats a seeded team they will assume that side’s seeded spot in the competition the following year. That will bring increased excitement to the Leinster championship.
Also on the hurling front, the time clock is being introduced to bring consistency with Gaelic football. A motion to have blood subs using either the same number on a new jersey or a lettered jersey was defeated with delegates feeling it was best to leave the matter as it is.
Match bans will now apply in club games. It will put a lot more work on the County CCCC Committee to keep tabs on the disciplinary elements of referee’s reports. Changing the minor grade to under-17 has been deferred.