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GAA have had a horrible start to 2023 – and the problems keep mounting

GAA President Larry McCarthy yesterday cut a subdued figure at the presentation of the report

Director-general Tom Ryan, left, and GAA president Larry McCarthy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrickSunday World

It is a black ball game deciding who had the most forgettable January: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak or the GAA.

I will leave it to my political reporting colleagues to assess the damage done to Donohue and Sunak.

But it is fair to say it has been an annus horribilis start to 2023 for the country’s most influential sporting organisation.

And the problems keep mounting, with controversy raging over who is to blame for dashing Katie Taylor’s dream of having a home-coming fight in Croke Park.

GAA President Larry McCarthy yesterday cut a subdued figure at the presentation of the report of the Association’s Director General Tom Ryan and the publication of their annual accounts.

And it should have been a good news day. The GAA has recovered from the devastating impact Covid 19 had on their finances.

Croke Park, for example, handed over a record €17m to the parent organisation after making record profits, including an eye-popping €7m on the seven concerts staged there last year.

But so many questions were being directed at stadium director Peter McKenna about the Katie Taylor fight saga that the Association’s PRO Alan Milton had to interfere and insist journalists ask questions on other issues.

Peter McKenna is a consummate professional who had anticipated all the queries and robustly defended the Croke Park stance. But as the PR gurus say ‘when you are explaining you’re losing’.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the continuing fall-out over the sixteenth man saga in the All-Ireland club final. McCarthy declined to make any comment; Tom Ryan was guarded but more forthcoming.

The problem for the GAA is that when they are caught in the eye of a storm the leadership are essentially hamstrung by their own archaic rules and procedures.

Within 15 minutes of the final whistle it was obvious there was a problem as pictures of Crokes’ 16 men on the field began to pop up on social media.

But the GAA is a bit like the Civil Service in terms of how it responds to emergency crisis. Rather than try and deal with it straight away they have a tendency to sit back and hope it blows over.

Nine times out of ten the strategy works. But it is a risky strategy.

Had the GAA issued a holding statement last Sunday week stating that the CCCC would meet the next morning and review what happened Glen might have been satisfied and opted not to lodge an objection.

Instead the they fuelled the controversy and almost goaded Glen into lodging the objection.

The counter argument is they didn’t want to create a precedent.

Rules are rules and they must be observed whether it is the first round of the club championship or the All-Ireland final.

But the real bug bear is that the substitution protocol in the GAA is flawed and has been for decades. It was an accident waiting to happen.

GAA consistently adopt rules and regulations but then repeatedly fail to enforce them.

Only in the GAA could the replacement of a player turn into a drama.

It is not pocket science: the substitute must not cross line the white line until the player he is replacing comes off the field. How often is that regulation adhered to?

Issues arise in injury time in tight matches when the team protecting a slender lead have a habit of introducing a replacement in order to either halt the momentum of the opposition or run down the clock.

In the case of Kilmacud Crokes, for example, what possessed them to replace their Man of the Match Dara Mullin, who had saved them in the All-Ireland semi-final with a last-gasp goal-line save against Kerins O’Rahilly’s in the dying seconds.

Surely he was the one player they would want to have on the field as Glen were about to take a 45.

Tom Ryan indicated yesterday the GAA may look at the substitution issue once the Kilmacud/Glen issue has been dealt with.

Here are two suggestions: either prohibit teams from introducing substitutes in injury time at the end of games unless he is replacing a player who is clearly injured.

Alternatively, introduce a time clock which would eliminate time wasting.

This would not require a rule change. On two separate occasions Congress delegates voted to have a clock. However, their democratic wishes were thwarted by mandarins in Croke Park.

The problem with the GAA is that at times are their own worst enemies.

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