Croke Park officials need to change the system because county managers just announce a ‘makey-up’ squad and then change it 40 minutes before throw-in
Having made a half-hearted attempt to curb the excesses of team managements in this area, all the indications are that the Association has bowed to pressure and rolled back the already light touch regulations.
In the past, counties had to submit a list of 26 players to Croke Park by Thursday morning at 9am before their weekend championship games.
They were prohibited from making any changes to the list. Essentially this meant the 26 players printed in the match programme were correct.
However, despite repeated requests from the GAA Writers’ Association – who represent GAA correspondents – the Association consistently refused to release match day squads ahead of games.
GAA journalists occasionally managed to circumvent the secrecy and find out the 26 names ahead of games.
One particular leak caused ructions. I revealed on the eve of the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final that Bernard Brogan had been left out of Dublin’s 26-man squad for their clash against Mayo. I gather Jim Gavin wasn’t best pleased.
It was a small win but essentially we lost the war because teams could still announce dummy teams hours ahead of a game with impunity.
The correct team and substitutes had only to be submitted to the authorities 40 minutes before the throw-in. Managers could – and frequently did – make positional changes afterwards.
By any standards the regulations were not particularly strict, though in fairness to the GAA they were strictly enforced.
Managers grew to dislike them intensely however, with ex-Mayo boss James Horan regularly criticising them.
They like to control the controllers. But this rule was beyond their control.
But it was a rant from Limerick’s All-Ireland winning hurling manager John Kiely after last year’s final which probably sounded their death knell.
It emerged after the game that Kyle Hayes and David Reidy had picked up injuries after the match-day 26-man squad had been submitted to Croke Park.
Had Hayes and Reidy been unable to tog out, Limerick would only have had to do with 24 players on the final match against Kilkenny.
“It's illogical to think that you could play an All-Ireland final... train on a Friday, name your squad on a Wednesday but you could potentially have Covid cases, injuries, sicknesses, bereavements, God knows what, and you still can't adjust that panel of 26,” said Kiely. “And you've extra time. That's ridiculous.
“Why is that? Someone give me a logical explanation as to why that has to be the case. Why couldn't we possibly add two more players on Friday night, Saturday morning, Sunday morning to the squad. If two, three, four, whatever number were unavailable. Why? Because it's written in the rulebook.”
Former GAA President Peter Quinn once said that hard cases make bad law. But the GAA have bowed to the will of the managers.
The Association’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) proposed a number of changes to the regulations which it is understood were accepted at a meeting of the Central Council last month.
At face value they do make sense given the condensed nature of the season as well as the increase in the number of games in the All-Ireland football championship in 2023.
Under the new regulations managers will be allowed to replace injured or bereaved players after the 9am Thursday deadline for the submission of the match-day squad.
Furthermore, managers can also make an alteration in the event of a last-minute injury after the finalised team and substitutes has been submitted 40 minutes before the throw-in.
The key question of course is will managers abide by the spirit of the new regulations or simply drive a coach and four through them.
Who will decide, for example, whether a player named on the original match day squad is unable to take his place on the day of the game?
Will the GAA demand to see a written note from the team doctor? Somehow I doubt it.
Watch with interest how this pans out in the 2023 championship.
Maybe managers will prove me wrong and do everything by the book.
Somehow, I doubt it.