UnTitled GAA Newsletter

Happy New Year everyone! We’re helping to get you set up for the footballing year ahead (which has actually already begun, if you count the Cups McKenna and O’Byrne) by getting you up to speed on the GAA storylines that have made the headlines since September’s All Ireland Final…

** CLICK HERE to sign up for our ‘UnTitled GAA Newsletter’: a Monday morning GAA news recap, delivered direct to your inbox

New playing rules: Perhaps the most significant news of the autumn, at least in terms of potential havoc for the year ahead, was the proposal of a new set of playing rules (by the GAA’s Standing Committee on the Playing Rules) – designed to mitigate against the curse of blanket defences and the evils of short kickouts. In the most concise nutshell we can possibly manage:

1 A restriction of three consecutive hand passes by players of the team in possession of the ball.

2 Sideline kicks to be played forward.

3 The mark extended to kick passes delivered on or beyond opposition’s 45m line.

4 Black cards to result in a 10 minute sit in a Sin Bin.

5 All kickouts to be taken from 20m line. All other players to be outside the 20m line, outside the arc, and 13m from the ball.

They may never see the light of day: The above rules were initially intended to be trialled during the 2019 NFL (as well as the preseason competitions), but following a meeting between the GAA and GPA they will not be sanctioned for the league until they pass a review stage at a Central Council meeting on 19th January. That is far from a formality. The general consensus among players and managers has not been positive. Mickey Harte has expressed “grave reservations” while Kieran McGeeney claims they merely “bow down to certain pundits”. Only Kildare manager Cian O’Neill has really spoke out in favour . At this stage, it would be a surprise if we saw them beyond January. 

Not quite all the stars: The 2018 edition of the GAA All Star awards passed off fairly peacefully, with what little debate surrounding them focused almost exclusively on the exclusion of Stephen Cluxton (yet again); this time to his Monaghan counterpart Rory Beggan. What was lost in the argument is that the greatest team of all time (the current Dublin one) only managed seven of the fifteen berths. That’s not even half! Perhaps the time has come for the All Stars committee to consider handing out awards to the fifteen best players in the country, instead of rationing them based on the four different playing positions.

Fight clubs: Not so peaceful was the conclusion to the country-wide club season, which descended into near mutiny following a spate of violent brawls, delivered directly to our handheld pieces of glass, in near real-time, via the likes of Twitter. Incidents in Down and Kerry appeared particularly egregious and thus garnered the most national attention. The field fight in Down came with a unique twist in that it fully took place outside the field of play itself. Kudos for that little wrinkle, at least. As has become the norm, the GAA failed to dish out appropriate sanctions, opening us to more of the same behaviour in 2019. Croke Park could do worse than introduce a disciplinary process where they take more control and that at least pretends to be meaningful.

Club championship drama: Despite the negative publicity, the 2018 club season produced plenty of excitement, especially at provincial level where reigning All Ireland champs Corofin and Dr Crokes of Kerry now look destined for a heavyweight All Ireland Final clash on St. Patrick’s Day. Standing in their way (respectively) will be Donegal and Ulster champions Gaoth Dobhair, and surprise package of the decade, Mullinalaghta of Longford, who defied the odds (and belief) to put Kilmacud to the sword in December’s Leinster Final.

2019 SFC draw: Back to the intercounty championship and we have some novel pairings to look forward to in 2019. Derry will travel to Omagh to take on Tyrone in the Ulster SFC preliminary round, while champions Donegal will meet Fermanagh in the 2018 Ulster Final repeat none of us want to see. Down vs Armagh and Monaghan vs Cavan have oodles of interest that is diluted by the elongated nature of the All Ireland championship. In Munster, Kerry and Cork are on course for another final meeting, while Mayo travel to New York and Galway to London in, erm, Connacht? Dublin will kick off their ninth successive Leinster-winning campaign against either Louth or Wexford.

New managers: Several county teams will have new managers this year. Kerry’s high-profile managerial vacancy was filled by Peter Keane, who led the Kingdom to the last three All Ireland minor titles. Paddy Tally takes over in Down, Mickey Graham in Cavan and Anthony Cunningham in Roscommon. Meanwhile in Mayo, a familiar face returns; James Horan – who brought the Connacht side to the brink of All-Ireland success between 2010-2014 – will take the reigns once again, for a four-year term. Will that be enough time to guide his native county to the holy grail?

Retired players: A number of high-profile players will not be gracing the intercounty scene in 2019. The most notable of which hail from Kerry, where Kieran Donaghy, Donnacha Walsh, Darran O’Sullivan and Anthony Maher have played their last in the green and gold. Their neighbours in Cork will be without 2010 All Ireland winners Donncha O’Connor, Colm O’Neill and Michael Shields. Sean Armstrong and Gary Sice have hung them up in Galway, while other significant retirees include Mark Lynch (Derry), Brian Kavanagh (Longford), Charlie Harrison (Sligo) and Darren Strong (Laois).

No more compromises: How many of you missed the lack of an International Rules series this year? In its stead we have been dealt a constant stream of some of the best young footballing talent in Ireland heading to Australia in an attempt to carve out a career in Aussie Rules. James Madden (Dublin), Anton Tohill and Callum Brown (Derry), Red Óg Murphy (Sligo), Mark Keane (Cork) and Stefan Okunbor (Kerry) all joined AFL clubs in 2018. The Kerry county board has gone so far as to  produce a booklet to help their star players ‘stay, play and work in Kerry’. Surely a booklet will do the trick?!

Concussions to the forefront: The issue of concussion has been something of a silent menace in the GAA down the years, but it gained a higher profile in December following the retirement of promising Roscommon footballer Conor Shanagher , at just 20 years of age, after suffering six concussions in five years. Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh and Donegal’s Ryan McHugh have also spoken openly about their battles with concussion. It is likely to become a hotter topic in 2019 and the GAA needs to introduce a strict protocol to mitigate against the obvious risks.

And… now you’re up to date!

Thanks for reading… UnTitled is published every Monday morning during the GAA football season to recap the weekend’s action and get you setup for the week ahead. We are expanding our newsletter in 2019 to include the NFL, so stay tuned for updates.

** CLICK HERE to sign up for our ‘UnTitled GAA Newsletter’: a Monday morning GAA news recap, delivered direct to your inbox

Feel free to share with your friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *