In the lead-up to the GAA Congress there was speculation that the strong hurling counties were lining up to thwart the implementation of the Football Development Committee’s ‘black card’ proposal.
The fear among hurling aficionados was that once the ‘black card’ was introduced in Gaelic football it would only be a matter of time before it was introduced into hurling.
Some months ago the debate regarding the structure of the Hurling League became fractious. The top hurling counties wanted an eight-team Division 1.
The Central CCCC had other ideas and strongly promoted a six team Division 1A and a six team Division 1B. This format was successful when eventually debated at Central Council.
The top hurling counties were far from happy, their principal reason being that hurling deserved more than five Leagues ties.
The reintroduction of semi-finals helped to ease their disappointment. But there was suspicion on the part of the strong hurling counties that the stronger football counties had ultimately decided the format of the current Hurling League.
Decisions relating to the format of any GAA competition are made collectively by county representatives (at Congress or Central Council) and it is fair to say that most decisions are not contentious.
But there is a feeling that hurling and Gaelic football officials are starting to become suspicious of each others intentions. Many hurling folk worry at what they perceive to be football rules being applied to hurling!
On the other hand, footballers feel that on occasions hurling referees are far more lenient when compared to their football counterparts. The notion proffered by some individuals that the two games should be run as separate entities within the GAA is a non-runner and would be a retrograde step.
However, given the unique and obvious differences between the two games, it might be worth considering some changes relating to discipline and refereeing.
GAA central committees comprise of individuals who are automatically elected by virtue of their officer role, with the remaining members selected by the GAA President in consultation with the Director General.
I have regularly heard comments regarding central GAA committees which were less than complementary. Such views are usually from individuals who are ill-informed about the role of such bodies.
Since 2007 the GAA has been issuing an annual report from each committee noting the number of meetings held, details of attendance by members and a summary of the main outcomes during the previous. These reports are available on www.gaa.ie.
When it comes to dealing with the rules of two very different games is it reasonable to expect a group of individuals to fully understand and appreciate the distinct differences between the two codes?
For example, could a Kilkenny person be expected to adjudicate on the disciplinary or refereeing aspects of Gaelic football? For sure some incidents require minimum knowledge of the game, but many incidents are far from clear-cut.
Perhaps it is time for hurling and Gaelic football to have a separate CCCC (for discipline only), a separate CHC and a separate Referees Committee.
These three committees could have officials with a clear and unequivocal knowledge of their respective code thus eliminating any arguments of not understanding or appreciating the intentions of the players or the rules of both codes.
The big argument against such a proposal is the need for similar structures at national, provincial and county levels. Such an argument is not unreasonable.
There can only be one GAA but the challenge of managing two very different games is becoming more difficult with each passing year.
Implementing new rules and amending existing rules must remain the remit of Congress but it may be worth exploring if discipline and refereeing in hurling and football, at least at inter-county levels, should be handled by separate groups.