There were plenty of stories stemming from GAA Congress last weekend, as delegates selected a new President-elect following a dramatic fourth count while the introduction of a black card into hurling emphatically failed.
Such matters of concern had been at the forefront of people’s minds for a number of weeks leading up to the GAA’s annual congressional meeting at Croke Park.
However, there was one rule change that slid deceptively into Gaelic football’s DMs – goalkeepers were banned from receiving a back-pass following a kick-out.
By all accounts, the motion was not widely discussed before Congress and seemingly, it passed without much deliberation or debate.
While many have welcomed the news, given the recent trend we’ve seen, it is possible that shot-stoppers around the country will have been riddled with fear last Saturday morning praying that the events of the night before didn’t actually happen.
The funny thing is, had this rule been introduced 20, maybe even 10 years ago, there would not have been as much push back to the idea. In theory, it does promote the long kick-out. However, given how it might curtail the abilities of men such as Niall Morgan and Rory Beggan, it’s easy to see why goalkeepers may feel hard done by.
Speaking to Cahair O’Kane of the Irish News following Tyrone’s win over Dublin last weekend, Morgan was very critical of the new ruling, claiming that Croke Park’s rule-makers won’t be happy until goalkeepers are only “lumping it out long”.
“For me, I don’t understand why people who don’t play the game, get to make the decisions on what players have to do. I know the GPA have two delegates at a meeting representing the players and to me it doesn’t make sense. There are a group of men, maybe retired, who might not have played football to a decent level. They get to decide what the rules are for the current players?”
“To me, goalkeeping has changed vastly in the last ten or twelve years, with Cluxton coming along, then myself, Rory [Beggan], Graham Brody, Shaun Patton as well. And we are all trying to make goalkeepers want to play.
“I don’t think they are going to be content in Croke Park until we are just lumping it out long between the midfielders.”
It would seem that Morgan is not alone in his criticism of the new kick-out rule, or indeed, those deciding on potential rule changes as legendary Roscommon goalkeeper Shane Curran outlined his opposition to those in Croke Park “meddling” with Gaelic football.
The outspoken Curran admitted he understands that administrators and county board delegates have a job to do but that job isn’t to change the fundamental rules of the game.
“I suppose at the end of the day, officialdom and Shane Curran don’t go hand in hand but I do respect that they have a job to do. And I do respect that I think when you get involved in management and you see what county boards have to do. There should be a clear separation between administration and football because let me tell ya, the guys that have been administrating know nothing about the game, absolutely nothing,” Curran told Pundit Arena.
‘Cake’ described GAA Congress as having a touch of ‘cute hoorism’ about it in that most delegates have their own agendas to look out for, that political side of sports administration that most can understand. What the Roscommon man doesn’t understand, however, is how these people are deemed qualified to administer rule changes.
“There’s a bit of cute hoorism about it, there’s protectionism about it, there’s a lack of transparency which is crucial in a democratic society but the GAA has this hold on a certain element of people and those tend to be people that are county board delegates. They’re wrapped in their own system where it’s they mind their house and I’ve no problem with that, I kind of understand it now, they have their own buddies to mind and their own things to protect. I understand that I get that, that’s politics.
“But what I don’t get is those same people making decisions quite frankly are not qualified to do so, simple as that. If you take delegates that go to Croke Park, I’d say 99 per cent of them are failed footballers and that’s fine. If they want administrative roles they can do that within the county, let them hand out the tickets when they need to be handed out, let them make sure county grounds are stewarded and whatnot, that’s their function, their function should not be meddling or making rules for the game.”
The former Roscommon shot-stopper feels that rule changes should be discussed through some form of “technical committee” overseen by both current and former players and managers as the current process is “flawed and dangerous”.
“There’s no technical committee that discussed it, players weren’t consulted on it, managers or ex-players not consulted on it. I just don’t understand this constant meddling with what, for me, is now a great game. The game has evolved, do we not understand that?
“This is flawed and it’s dangerous as well because I think when you see the way that rule was slipped in on the Congress floor, that to me is dangerous and it sends a bad signal out.
“By the way, I tweeted some stuff about it and I got a critique from Raheens club, one of the players. But this isn’t a critique of any of the players. This is not a criticism of Raheens GAA club or the person who brought forward this particular amendment or Kildare GAA, this is a criticism of the process, the process is flawed and people within the process should not be making the decisions. It’s a bit like asking a tree doctor to make a heart transplant, would you do it? It wouldn’t happen but it’s happening in the GAA. ”
Curran feels delegates of an older generation are longing for the days of decades gone by when Gaelic football was played differently to how it is today.
However, St. Brigid’s club All-Ireland winner, now 48, pulls no punches when reflecting on how Gaelic football has evolved over the years.
“The people that make these decisions are generally fellas that have no club football, don’t understand the game, don’t want to understand it, hankering for maybe the seventies and eighties were goalkeepers had a good boot and could send it 50 or 60 yards to the middle of the field. They’ve no perception whatsoever of how the game has evolved, how coaching has evolved, how the players have evolved.
“Look at Jim McGuinness, he came along with a team and a style that didn’t suit this wonderful tradition of Gaelic football. Gaelic football, if you look back 40 years ago was pure and utter shite, pardon the pun. It was fucking muck with half of it drop-kicks, giving the ball away and that idea of just lumping it up. Look at the skill we have today, look at the scores people are taking, look at the number of high scores that there are in matches.
“Look at the attacking play, look at corner-backs going up and putting the ball over the bar and then coming back and defending. Look at full-forwards being able to track back, look at goalkeepers being able to score. All of these things are part of the evolution and the greatness of coaching, part of the greatness of the game but yet we’ve some need to try and strangle that beauty and that fucking annoys me, it really does.”
This is the first of our two-part interview with the ever-colourful Shane Curran. Check out Pundit Arena tomorrow to find out why playing in goals has become “sexy” again in Gaelic football.
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