By Eamonn Kelly
Philadelphia’s Paddy Rooney was reelected chairman of the North American County Board of the GAA at the annual convention in Philadelphia last week. Rooney, a native of County Down, was returned for a second year following a run-off with Boston’s Joe Lydon, the current registrar of the Northeast Divisional Board.
More than 70 clubs from nine divisions around the country were represented at the Board’s 40th Annual Convention, which was staged at the Philadelphia Marriot West Hotel. It was the most competitive convention in several years, as all positions required a ballot with the exception of the office of public relations. All incumbents were returned to office except in the position of secretary, where Celia Lynn of Chicago defeated Seattle’s John Keane after a second ballot. The most closely contested office was that of youth officer, where incumbent John O’Flynn of San Francisco had just six votes to spare over Joe Begley of Chicago.
Following is complete board of officers for 1999: Martin Keane (Boston), honorary president; Paddy Rooney (Philadelphia), chairman; Celia Lynn (Chicago), secretary; Mike O’Connor (Boston), treasurer; Sean Gannon (Cleveland), registrar; Eamonn Kelly (Chicago), public relations; John O’Flynn (San Francisco), youth officer.
After welcoming all the delegates and club members to the convention, chairman Rooney congratulated the divisional boards across the country for their contribution toward what could best be described as the most successful season in the 40-year history of the Board. He emphasized his support of the underage football program and applauded the success of women’s football throughout the league.
In a detailed report, Board secretary John Keane outlined the success of the 1998 season and in particular he praised the Washington, D.C., Gaels junior football club for their superb handling of the 1998 national playoffs, the biggest in the history of the American Board. To emphasize the enormity of the tournament the report highlighted such statistics as, 50 referee assignments and 300 additional field officials were required in the running of the 45-game event. His report focused on other achievements such as the participation of an U-14 team from San Francisco in the Feile na nOg juvenile tournament in Ireland last June, the affiliation of a women’s team in the International Gaelic Football competition in Dublin in September, the expansion of the minor football program by adding an U–21 and U-16 championship and the addition of a camogie competition which included the participation of a team from New York. Also noted in the report was the creation of the NACB Website on the Internet (www.nagaa.org).
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Founder member of the Board, Galwayman John Hehir of Boston, was elected convention chairman. In an appropriate address to the delegation on the 40th anniversary of the board, he paid respect to the many great officers that worked on the board over the last four decades, some of whom were present at this convention. He highlighted the tremendous growth of the association, particularly over the past ten years. According to figures recorded in Sean Gannon’s Registrar Report, 5,885 players affiliated with 98 teams across 85 clubs divided into 10 divisions comprising 18 different cities across the U.S.
Thirty-one motions were submitted to the convention, of which seven were either ruled out of order or withdrawn by the clubs that submitted them. As expected, several motions were submitted regarding the present structure of the annual playoffs. Following the passage of a motion from Washington, D.C., Gaels, the Board issued a document that outlined a set of rules and guidelines to be implemented by the host playoff city. Another junior football club, the Seattle Gaels, requested the board to investigate the feasibility of holding regional Junior football playoff prior to the National playoffs. Since no structural changes will take effect for the 1999 playoffs in Chicago the Seattle motion will be down for discussion at next year’s convention.
There was much debate on the subject of team sheets and in particular the failure of many playoff teams not following the guideline set in the bylaws. Registrar Gannon stressed that guidelines pertaining to team sheets will be strictly enforced for the 1999 playoffs. A motion submitted by the St. Joseph’s Club in San Jose was passed which states, "That Team Sheets should indicate which players are starting and which are substitutes and only players listed on Team Sheets as provided to the referee before the start of the game may participate. These Team Sheets should also indicate which players are Green-Cards and which players are White-Cards."
Long and lively discussions developed in response to motions requesting changes to rules covering "Summer Visitor Players" from Ireland (white card registrations). Efforts by several football clubs to change Rule R7-B to allow five "Summer Visitor Players" on the field at any one time rather than the current three-player allowance failed as the motion did not gain the required two-thirds majority. However, the hurling clubs were successful in changing Rule R7-C when more than a two-thirds majority voted in favor of increasing from five to seven the number of "Summer Visitor Players" allowed on the field at one time. The convention also approved changing the deadline for the registration of home based (green card) players from April 15 to April 30.
Representatives from Central Council, Helen O’Rourke and Albert Fallon addressed the convention.
Next year’s convention will be held in Atlanta and Boston will be the site of the National playoffs in the year 2000.