No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

Lots of interest in the issues at Congress

Delegates at last year's GAA Annual Congress 2015. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Delegates at last year’s GAA Annual Congress 2015. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE


The Annual GAA Congress takes place this weekend, and somewhere in the region of 320 delegates will make their way to the Mount Wolseley Hotel in Co Carlow for the event.


Sixty-five motions will be debated and there will be plenty of discussion on various changes that could be made, and on ways to improve the game.

The main topic is whether or not a ‘B’ Championship will be introduced and it seems that is unlikely to get the go-ahead, and the current format will remain in place.

A big issue that keeps coming up year after year is player burnout and a motion will be tabled to abolish the Under 21 Grade at Intercounty Level.

There is also a possibility that Minor level (currently under 18) will be switched to an Under 17 grade, while the Under 21 championship would be moved to Under 20.

Under this proposal, any player Under 20, who has previously been listed on a team sheet submitted at senior intercounty level would not be eligible to play in the competition.

It really is hard to know what way is best to go forward. I am manager of the Donegal Under 21 team and our season hasn’t even started yet, and we’re already decimated with injuries.

We’re only three weeks out from our championship opener at the moment, and we have six or seven players from our first 20 on the treatment table.


There’s a lot of training going on and lads are working with us, the senior team, college sides, and their clubs want a piece of them too as they begin their preparations for the year ahead.

That puts a huge strain on the young players, and another concern is where they are training. It’s so hard to get facilities at this time of the year due to the weather, and one day you’re on astroturf pitch, and the next day, you’re on some pitch which resembles a mud bath. That’s just a recipe for disaster.

Almost every team now follows specific protocols and work hard on warm-ups and recovery sessions and the likes, but still there are players breaking down all over the country.

Would changing to an Under 20 grade make a huge difference? I’m not convinced. A significant proportion of our current squad would fall into that bracket, and they still have a huge workload at the minute.

The timing of the Under 21 championship is the real issue. There’s just far too much going on at the this time of the year, and something will have to give sooner rather than later.

From what i can gather, there seems to be a fair amount of support to introduce the mark into our game.

The art of high fielding was always considered to be part and parcel of the Gaelic Football, but it is something that has faded away over the last few years.

A mark will only count if a catch is made in between both 45s, but the problem I see with it, is that it doesn’t limit the short kick-out.

Goalkeepers are so fast at restarting the play these days, why would they risk kicking a 50/50 ball down the field to their big man, when they can be reasonably sure that they will retain possession if they play it short?

The other big problem I see with this proposal is that it hasn’t been trialled out yet, so I don’t know if it would be fair to bring it into our game.

I know I’ve said it before, but things are not as bad as some people would have you believe.

Yes, some teams are operating with defensive game plans, but others, particularly the stronger counties and I include Donegal in that, are working very hard at the offensive side of their play to find ways to counteract the blanket defence.

Different tactics and patterns come and go. Our game is constantly evolving and that is not necessarily a bad thing.




Donegal are out in action this weekend against Mayo and they will be hoping to make it three wins from three games.

That will ensure our Division 1 status for next season and that’s important going forward as more younger players enter the senior fold.

Rory Gallagher took his team away to Tenerife for a training camp and I do expect them to come back fresh from that.

Mayo have a number of lads out injured and they will also be without the Castlebar contingent.

It’s been a bit of a baptism of fire so far for their new manager Stephen Rochford.

Mayo have lost their opening two games, and this really is a big match for them. Donegal are not giving up much at MacCumahill Park these days, and they will not want Mayo to turn them over on Sunday.

Donegal have clearly worked hard on developing their attacking game this year, and they have been racking up big tallies.

They are getting scores from all over the field. the half-backs and midfielders are chipping in with points, and the half-forward line have been contributing too.

Patrick McBrearty is on fire at the moment which is great to see, but you don’t want to be over-dependent on the Kilcar man.

It should be an interesting game and there should be a good crowd in MacCumhaill Park. It looks like it might be decent weather for a change too.

I expect Donegal to keep their good form going and they should still be top of Division 1 come Sunday evening.

The two teams that are level with us on four points in Division 1 are Monaghan and Dublin and they will meet this weekend in Croke Park.

Monaghan are in that top rung of teams in the country now and they have made great strides under Malachy O’Rourke, winning two Ulster titles.

They need to take it to the next level now and that won’t be easy. Dublin is a team they have really struggled with against, and while I think it is unlikely that they will beat the Dubs in Headquarters, I’d imagine O’Rourke will be content enough if they can put in a decent display.

Conor McManus is Monaghan’s marquee player, and he is one of the finest players in the country, but he needs more support.

One of the star players in the Sigerson cup this year was DCU’s Shane Carey, who hails from the Farney county, and if he can make an impression at senior grade, perhaps Monaghan can take it to the next level.

Roscommon recorded a brilliant victory against Kerry in their last game, and they make the long trip south again this weekend to face Cork.

The Rebels are a Jekyll and Hyde side – one week they’re good, the next, they’re rubbish. They were well beaten by Donegal in their last outing, but don’t be surprised to see them turn that around on home turf this weekend.

The final game in Division 1 is between Down and Kerry in Newry. I fancied Down to get relegated before the campaign started, and my stance hasn’t changed.

Kerry will have been disappointed with their defeat against Roscommon, and with the ‘Gooch’ and a few other seasoned campaigners available again this weekend, it should be an away win.

In Division 2, Fermanagh travel to Armagh and that should be a fiercely contested match.

Kieran McGeeney might have some of the Crossmaglen players back in tandem, but it will have been a tough couple of weeks for them. Fermanagh had a big win against Meath in their last game, and I fancy them to run Armagh very close this weekend.

Galway are traditionally poor travellers, but on any given day if they click, they can put it up to any team, and while Derry might be fancied to win this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tribesmen took the honours. Tyrone should also keep their good form going with an away win against Laois.

My tip this week is a treble on Donegal (4/7), Tyrone (4/9) and Fermanagh +2 (5/6).

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