We don't know how many candidates there were when Maurice Davin was elected the first GAA president in 1884, but next weekend will be the first time in living memory that there won't be an election to decide the presidency of the country's most powerful sporting association. Following the decisions by Wexford's Sheamus Howlin and Donegal's Tom Daly not to run, Liam O'Neill, from Trumera in County Laois is now the only candidate and is certain to be named President-Elect when GAA delegates meet for the annual congress in Mullingar. O'Neill, a school teacher, has served as Chairman of the Leinster Council and more recently chairman of the GAA's Games and Development committee. He can look very serious but is a very progressive individual. I think he won't make any mistakes when he formally takes over as GAA president from Christy Cooney at the 2012 Congress. Padraic Duffy, the GAA's Director General, admits that the annual Congress is becoming too crowded and there are too many delegates and not enough time to discuss policy. He said: ''We get 350 people together for what is essentially a one-day Congress. I would question the size and wonder is there a case for reducing the numbers. I think we would need to extend it by a day at least and you would have to reduce the numbers that are there. As structured at present I think it's probably too big and it doesn't give the opportunity on the whole to discuss policy issues.'' This year there will be 49 motions up for discussion. Once again there are calls for at a 13-day break for beaten provincial finalists, but really there are only 52 weeks in what is already a crowded calendar. There is also a motion from the North American Board proposing that any players who are included on an intercounty senior panel for the championship should not be permitted to register that year for a North American County Board club unless they hold a J1Visa.
TIPP VS. CATS MOST LIKELY FINAL PAIRINGWe have had an exciting finish to the National Football League and on Sunday it will be time to get the calculators out to decide the final placing in the hurling league. Going into the final series of games Kilkenny are in pole position on nine points at the top of division one. Galway and Dublin are on eight points with Tipperary and Waterford on seven points. On Sunday, the Cats should pick up two more points when Offaly visit Nowlan Park. Tipperary were in brilliant form last time notching up four goals and 23 points against Galway and they are unlikely to show any sympathy for relegation threatened Wexford in Thurles on Sunday. Elsewhere Waterford, who have a much inferior points difference to Tipp, are at home to a Galway side that can blow hot or cold and Dublin travel to Cork. I think Waterford can beat Galway and Cork would always be expected to beat Dublin at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, but this time they have nothing really to play for. That would leave Kilkenny and Tipperary to qualify for the final on May 1st, but I wouldn't be putting huge money on it happening. If the results go as predicted above that would see Wexford drop to division two because Offaly, who would have the same points total, beat them in their head-to-head. In division two Limerick, who play Antrim on Sunday, are already through to the final. What a difference a year makes. Last year most of the Limerick squad wouldn't play under Justin McCarthy and they were relegated to division two. Now under former Cork manager Donal O'Grady they have been transformed and have maximum points from their six games played. Clare, who are at home to Carlow on Sunday, should win and set up a division two final meeting with their Munster neighbors.
ROSSIES HAVE APPLE ON THEIR MINDSRoscommon footballers were promoted to the division three National Football League final a little while back, and so were able -- even before the NFL campaign was over, according to manager Fergal O'Donnell -- to put much of their mental energy on the first defense of their Connacht title against New York in the Big Apple on May Day. O'Donnell said: ''New York is only a few weeks away and we just cannot afford any more injuries. That's my main concern at the moment. The league final is a bonus; we just wanted to get promoted. The main focus is on New York.'' Following Galway's scare in the Big Apple last year, the Connacht Council changed the rules and if New York surprise Roscommon, the latter will be allowed back into the championship.GAA MAY ARRANGE SPECIAL GAME FOR ROYAL VISIT The Irish edition of the Sunday Times were first with the story and last week the GAA confirmed that Queen Elizabeth and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh will visit Croke Park on her official visit next month. There are no big games scheduled for Croke Park in May and it's expected that hurling and football exhibition games, possibly by young players, will be arranged specially for the Queen. A statement from the GAA said that the visit will provide GAA president Christy Cooney with the opportunity to convey to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh a sense of the history and values of the Gaelic Athletic Association, and its unique and leading place in Irish society.
BAD NEWS FOR 2 INTERNATIONALSTwo Irish soccer internationals have been ruled out with injuries for the rest of the season and a third will be struggling to play again this season. Leon Best, who got his chance to impress as a striker at Newcastle United following the departure of Andy Carroll to Liverpool, has undergone surgery to remedy an ankle problem and will miss his club and country's end of season games. Worse news for Derby County midfielder Paul Green. He could be out for up to nine months after suffering a cruciate knee injury. Green, who has won 8 Irish caps, will have to wait until his knee improves before surgery. Derby manager Nigel Clough said: ''The main thing is that nobody rushes Paul back. He has got five or six years left in his career.'' But Wolves manager Mick McCarthy is hopeful that Stephen Hunt should be available for a few end of season games after a hernia operation last week.ADVANCES MADE IN CRUCIATE DIAGOSIS A GAA club in Fermanagh is encouraging their players not to use bladed football boots in a bid to end a spate of cruciate ligament injuries. St Patrick's club chairman Paddy Boyle said that they have asked their players to stick with moulded boots or studs. There certainly has been an increase in cruciate injuries with Kerry's David Moran and Cork's young star Colm O'Neill the latest players to suffer cruciate injuries while playing. But Limerick physio Ger Hartmann, who has worked with athletes from all over the world, says that modern technology is helping players find out the exact nature of their injuries much quicker. Hartmann said: ''Go back 10 or 15 years and players would be depending on an X-ray, but that didn't show a cruciate, which could be torn, or completely gone. Now you have an MRI in every hospital, and in places like the Santry Sports Clinic, so diagnostics are way more expedient, within days of the trauma. Cruciate injuries were always there, but players were told the knee was badly inflamed, arthritis even. You played on if you could, and if you couldn't you retired.''
MUNSTER INCUR FURTHER LOSSESThere are going to be big changes to the ageing Munster rugby squad next season. Paul Warwick, who could play at full back or out half, had already confirmed his departure to join London Irish next season. Now comes news that Sam Tuitupou will also leave at the end of the current season. He joined from Worcester Warriors at the start of this current season and is expected he will resume his career in the English Premiership. Also Kilkenny-born Ian Dowling has been forced to retire due to a bad hip injury. Dowling, who is only 28, won two Heineken Cups with Munster. He is now doing a physiotherapy course at the University of Limerick.