GAA Football

Cahair O'Kane: Central Council and overseas will be Special Congress kingmakers

GAA president Larry McCarthy pictured at yesterday's press briefing in Croke Park. Picture by Sportsfile

IF anyone has a number for John King, now would be a good time to give him a shout.

Seeing CNN’s legendary political correspondent turning a touchscreen map of counties from blue to red would almost be enough to make the GAA’s political show worth watching for the rest of the week.

What had seemed to become a destined one-sided coronation of the status quo was yesterday sparked into life by the comments of GAA director-general Tom Ryan and president Larry McCarthy.

It might have been dragged out of them and it might have been more of a “if there was a gun to my head” support than “here’s what we want and why we want it”, but it was still a significant statement.

Tom Ryan is the man in permanent power but it could be McCarthy’s comments that carry greater weight. He was more forthright in his support for a “bold” vote, and his status as the first overseas president could turn the entire thing on its head.

The rights and wrongs of the overseas vote are nothing new to this Special Congress.

The bodies of London, Hertfordshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Scotland, Europe, New York, USGAA, Canada, Australasia, Asia and the Middle East could be the king-makers on Saturday.

Their combined 34 votes is more sway than the whole of any of the four home provinces.

The counties of Leinster (32), Munster (23), Ulster (22) and Connacht (13) will account for 90 votes, just under half of the total of 183.

Leinster (32): Dublin 5, Kildare 3, Laois 3, Meath 3, Westmeath 3, Wexford 3, Kilkenny 2, Longford 2, Louth 2, Offaly 2, Wicklow 2

Connacht (13): Galway 4, Mayo 3, Leitrim 2, Roscommon 2, Sligo 2

Munster (23): Cork 5, Kerry 4, Limerick 4, Tipperary 4, Clare 3, Waterford 3

Ulster (22): Antrim 3, Armagh 3, Down 3, Tyrone 3, Cavan 2, Derry 2, Donegal 2, Fermanagh 2, Monaghan 2

Overseas (34): USGAA 5, Europe 4, Australasia 3, London 2, Hertfordshire 2, Warwickshire 2, Gloucestershire 2, Lancashire 2, Yorkshire 2, Scotland 2, New York 2, Canada 2, Asia 2, Middle East 2

Central Council (52): Includes Uachtaran Larry McCarthy, four provincial presidents, GAA trustees plus delegates from each home county

Past presidents (7)

Total: 183 (110 votes required to pass a motion)


That it’s a Special Congress tips the balance of power very definitely away from the counties.

County delegate numbers are cut in half from a full Annual Congress, but the voting power of Central Council and the GAA’s management structure remains as is.

Central Council really is the big player. They will carry 52 votes. Of those, 32 are delegates from each home county, whose votes traditionally fall in line with their respective county.

Larry McCarthy has a vote, as do the four provincial presidents, who will all vote against change. You also have the GAA’s two trustees, along with financial director Ger Mulryan and seven past presidents.

Sean Kelly, for instance, has spoken firmly in favour of accepting Proposal B.

Further representatives of a number of overseas units and the likes of Handball and Cumann na mBunscoil make up the 20 remaining votes that could swing either way.

The GAA’s leadership held two separate briefings in the past week, one with county treasurers and the other for chairmen and Central Council delegates, in which the financial realities of each proposal were outlined.

No opportunity was given in those meetings for delegates to discuss the merits of the proposals, and there was no direction offered on how Central Council should vote.

There was annoyance among some that while there was no discussion facilitated on the motions, GPA CEO Tom Parsons was given the opportunity to address their call on Monday night.

Ulster’s delegates met on Tuesday and the feeling in the room was very definite. While they weren’t against change as a principle, the dilution of the Ulster Championship is a red line.

While the argument is that Ulster counties will accept change in a different guise, their determination to hold on to the current provincial structure and retain its importance will make implementing a radically different championship structure very difficult.

Questions have also been asked about the weight of the GPA’s survey of players. The idea that 80 per cent of players are in support has grown legs, whereas in reality, it was 80 per cent of the players who responded.

The fact that around just 30 per cent of 1,200 inter-county footballers responded to the survey means the number in favour of Proposal B is under 300. The players’ support is not as overwhelming as it’s been made out in some quarters.

110 votes are required in favour of Proposal B if change is to be accepted.

The counties that have publically declared their support would only account for around a third of what is required, even when you presume their Central Council delegates will vote in line with county delegates.

If the overseas block moves in line with Larry McCarthy, that would take Proposal B an awful lot closer to the finishing line.

Ulster would like to say no to change, but some of the counties that took the proper democratic path of inviting clubs and other stakeholders into the tent may not be able to.

Ultimately, though, Central Council and the overseas units – not the counties - will be the kingmakers.

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