Congress is a very relevant GAA forum

This weekend delegates from all over Ireland and several overseas countries will descend on Croke Park for the annual GAA Congress.

This weekend delegates from all over Ireland and several overseas countries will descend on Croke Park for the annual GAA Congress.

It is an important event and includes a review of the year’s operations, plus an opportunity to implement change in rules and regulations approved by delegates. For the majority Congress may appear irrelevant, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Congress ultimately shapes the games and operations of the GAA, and thus impacts on every player and member. I outlined previously how well the GAA performed financially last year. It was impressive.

Financial matters are discussed in some detail at a Congress workshop allowing delegates to raise matters they deem relevant. This year’s Congress also has workshops on a second series of proposals from the FDC; a new National Strategy Plan 2014-2017; Health and Well Being and the role of the GAA in such matters; IT Deployments and finally Injury Prevention in our Games.

Each topic has relevance in every county. They allow delegates to share views and experiences. Counties can learn a lot from participating.

An important element of every Congress is the report of the Director General. Such reports are always comprehensive with many positive suggestions being proposed. Unfortunately most years the report generates little discussion among delegates.

That is a shame as it outlines important topics which require serious debate and consideration by delegates. Hopefully the current report will get due attention on Friday night.

Busy delegates

Delegates will be busy on Saturday debating the pros and cons of 64 motions. Some motions will be dealt with quickly, while others will take time. The highlight of Congress will be the election of a President-elect who will take over from Liam O’Neill this time next year.

Three candidates, Sheamus Howlin (Wexford), Aogán Farrell (Cavan) and Sean Walsh (Kerry) are standing and any one of them would make a fine President. The Presidential election will be on Friday night.

All three men have been through a torrid couple of months visiting counties and they will be glad to see the end of the campaign.

If Congress fails to excite supporters, the same could not be said of the start of the National Hurling League. Kilkenny and Clare served up a great game in Ennis. The Cats will be disappointed not to have taken at least a point.

It was a game which could have gone either way but ultimately the All-Ireland champions displayed a bit more energy in the closing 10 minutes to take the points. From a Kilkenny perspective the day was an opportunity to give new players a taste of senior fare.

While it is far too early to say if these players will make it in the championship, Brian Kennedy and Jonjo Farrell put in impressive displays. Henry Shefflin’s display was the highlight for Kilkenny. Not alone did he perform excellently, but his influence was evident throughout the team.

Pitch conditions helped neither side, but in the closing quarter Clare mastered them a lot better than Kilkenny. That was probably the primary reason why the Banner emerged victorious.

By the end Clare had used almost every player involved in last year’s championship. While securing a victory in Ennis was Kilkenny’s primary objective, getting so close to the All-Ireland champions with so many new players was encouraging.

As for the other Division 1 games, Tipperary deserved to beat Waterford but the Déise contributed to their own downfall. Could 2014 be a replica of 2012 for Dublin? Already Anthony Daly has a big challenge ahead.

Next up for Kilkenny is Tipperary in Nowlan Park on Sunday. Kilkenny need to pick up points or they will find themselves at the bottom of the Division 1A table.