GAA Congress agrees 'split season' model which will see All-Ireland Finals played before mid July

GAA director general Tom Ryan says the association will require major government funding again in 2021 because of the loss of gate receipts
GAA director general Tom Ryan told Congress that "we still have our heads above water" despite a "traumatic year"

The GAA's Congress has voted to accept a 'split season' model which will see the All-Ireland Hurling and Football Final being played by mid July.

The arrival of Covid-19 last year forced the GAA to adopt a split season as the sport resumed with club action before inter-county games returned.

The vote, which comes into effect in 2022, will mean an inter-county season before the exclusive club window opens.

Delegates were overwhelmingly in favour of the motion so a vote was not taken.

The GAA's annual gathering, taking place virtually because of the global pandemic, also heard an admission from director general Tom Ryan that the new second-tier Football Championship Tailteann Cup may not go ahead this year.

The competition was scheduled to start last year but the arrival of Covid-19 meant a condensed football championship run off in the autumn and winter.

A number of players set to be involved in the Tailteann Cup remain vehemently opposed to the new two-tier structure.

Government provided 59% of 2020 GAA funding

Ryan admitted the last year has been "very traumatic" for the GAA.

"[But] We're still here. We still have our heads above water," he told delegates.

With the GAA losing in the region of 30m Euro in gate receipts in 2020, the association sought and got major funding from the Irish Government and Ryan indicated that this will be necessary again in 2021.

"We couldn't have got through the year without financial support from the state," added the director general.

The GAA's financial director Ger Mulryan later revealed that state funding made up 59% of the association's income in the last financial year when it would normally have been under 10%.

John Horan handed over the GAA presidency to New York-based Corkman Larry McCarthy on Saturday
John Horan, who handed over the GAA presidency to Larry McCarthy at Congress, denied that the association's loss of 'elite' status for inter-county players represented a "loss of standing"

John Horan, who handed over the GAA presidency to New York-based Corkman Larry McCarthy on Saturday, insisted the association's loss of its 'elite' exemption for inter-county competition did not represent a "loss of our standing with Sport Ireland or the government".

When asked about the government's decision by former GAA president Sean Kelly, who said that it should be "reversed as quickly as possible", Horan insisted it was an operational one due to the weight of numbers involved in inter-county squads.

"I did ask the minister for an explanation, I put this in the public domain, he said at the time it was professional sports that could operate in a bubble environment and it was felt that we would be more challenged in that," added Horan.

"If you take it in the context of rugby, the four provincial teams which make up the international team would probably be about 250 players and the League of Ireland would have similarly low numbers. Our multiples would be up around 20 times that.

"We have no need to have any concern. Even if I do say so myself on behalf of the GAA, I think we outshone every sporting organisation in the country in the last 12 months."

Other motions passed included one to reduce the number of teams in senior club championships to 16 despite opposition from counties including Dublin, Tyrone and Galway with 66% of delegates backing the move.

Delegates also voted by 61% to 39% to this season trial a sin bin in hurling and also award penalties in both codes for cynically denying a goal-scoring chance inside the 20-metre line and the arc despite the opposition of several high-profile voices including the GPA.

In hurling, the player who commits the foul will be shown a yellow card and sent from the field for 10 minutes with a similar sanction in place for football.

Similarly in football, for the same offence in the same area of the field, a penalty will be awarded and a black card issued.

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