GAA director general Páraic Duffy said that there was widespread support for the Central Council decision to apply sideline bans to team officials who “make derogatory comments in relation to a match official before a game or in interviews subsequent to a game”.

Duffy said that the move wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to comments made by Kilkenny manager Brian Cody about All-Ireland referee Barry Kelly – which led to a warning about future behaviour from the GAA’s Central Hearings Committee – but something that had been on the agenda for a while and referred to by him in his annual report last February.

“It’s been a feeling for a long time that disciplinary committees are very reluctant to address the issue of derogatory comments because under match regulations the punishment is dealt with under the rule on ‘discrediting the association’ and the minimum penalty is eight weeks,” said Duffy.

“As a result there was a great reluctance to take on the issue of derogatory comments. My personal view is that this is a much better way of dealing with it and I’d expect committees to be far more inclined to take action when the penalty is simply to put people into the stands. I think it’s far more likely there’d be action taken now and much less of a tolerance.”

He said that the proposal to withdraw sideline privileges instead of imposing suspensions had been well supported at a meeting at the weekend.
“No serious opposition to it at all. The rationale for it was explained and the decision was made. It doesn’t have to go to congress and takes effect from 2015.”

Duffy said that there was less consensus on the proposal to bring a motion to congress which requires a playing panel of 26 players to be registered for all senior inter-county championship games by 9am on the Thursday before a fixture.

According to the Central Council statement: “With the exception of a replacement for a goalkeeper or sub-goalkeeper, no changes can be made to the registered list. The penalty for including a player not included on the registered list will be forfeiture of game.

“Teams will also be required to submit their starting team to the referee and to committee-in-charge at least 20 minutes before throw-in. The penalty for starting a player not on that list will also be loss of game.”

Duffy said although the matter was debated more extensively than the sideline ban, support for these proposals was still strong.

“There was more discussion around those but again I would say in the end that there was very strong numbers in favour.
“There was a realisation that something has to be done to deal with the confusion before some matches. At least you know now the 26 players on the panel and this nonsense of some allegedly injured player turning up on the day with number 27 or 28 on his back will have to stop.

“The original proposal was 30 minutes but some felt that a player could get injured in the warm-up and that 15 would be better so we compromised on 20. There was some discussion around that alright, but in the end this had to go to a motion for congress, but it’s a new motion so it only needs a simple majority to go through.”

The initiative, if accepted, won’t, however, put a stop to the practice of naming dummy teams, should managers wish to continue that practice.

“The concern was expressed that the new proposal doesn’t mean that the right 15 will be named in the week before the match and you can’t do anything about that. This is an improvement and, based on the mood of Central Council, it has a very good chance.”

Duffy added that there was a practical dimension to the move, which will allow more inter-county panellists line out for their clubs.

“There have been plenty of instances of club games being called off at weekends because someone’s a sub on the team or on the county panel. Very often those players have no chance of playing: one player on a county panel and a club game is called off. It addresses that issue as well.”

Central Council also decided to propose to congress the permanent adoption of the Hawk-Eye score detection system at Croke Park as well as the roll-out of the technology to Thurles and then to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Casement Park when the Cork and Belfast stadia are redeveloped.(Irish Times)
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