GAA Congress 2021

New GAA President Larry McCarthy

GAA Annual Congress 2021

  • Larry McCarthy succeeds John Horan as GAA President.

  • 38 motions voted on. 10 deferred.

  • Split season for inter-county and club action introduced.

  • New penalties for aggressive and cynical fouls in hurling and football introduced on a trial basis for a year.

  • 16 team Senior County Championship for clubs by 2023

  • Bye bye Maor Foirne

See the detail of all motions below


Rule Changes Passed

The following motions were passed and become part of the rules although some may involve a phased transition:

Motion 2: This motion seeks to change the financial year end for counties, provinces, and the GAA at a national level from October 31st to September 30th.

Motion 4: This motion deals with anti-doping and proposes that Rule 1.16 Anti-Doping – Official Guide Part 1 (page 9) be amended to read: 'The Association forbids the use of prohibited substances or methods, a practice generally known as doping in sport. The Rules of the Association regarding doping are the Irish Anti-Doping Rules as adopted by Sport Ireland and as amended from time to time (“the ADR”).

The latest version can be downloaded from

The Rules contained in the said ADR shall have effect and be construed as Rules of the Association

Motion 5: Currently team-sheets for all teams above the U-16 grade must be signed by the club/county secretary or assistant secretary. This motion seeks to give the Official-in-Charge of the team the right to also carry out this role.

Motion 6: This motion relates to the GAA’s closed season. Up to now the closed season was defined by specific dates that were determined on an annual basis by Central Council. This motion proposes to give Central Council a bit more flexibility by allowing them to determine the time-table “from time to time” rather than “annually”.

Motions 7: If this motion is passed then joint-captains will no longer be allowed to accept a trophy on behalf of their team. Instead, a single captain must accept the trophy.

Motion 8: In cases where there’s a perceived ambiguity around a rule then Central Council is charged with interpretating the rule and bringing any clarification required to the next Congress to be ratified. This Motion deals with the rule passed at Annual Congress 2020 that stipulated a player in direct receipt of a kick-out from a goalkeeper in Gaelic Football could not pass the ball back to the goalkeeper without another player playing the ball first. The penalty for committing this foul was that a free-kick would be awarded to the opposition team from where the goalkeeper received the pass. This motion clarifies that if the goalkeeper receives the pass inside his square that the opposition is awarded a free from the 13 metre line rather than a penalty.

Motion 10: This motion comes from the Gaelic Players Association and deals with anti-doping. It proposes that in order to be eligible to play inter-county league a player must have completed the GAA’s online anti-doping education course within the previous 12 months. And, in order to play in the inter-county championship, a player must have completed the online anti-doping education course within that championship year. The proposed penalty for not doing so is a one-match suspension in the same code and in the same competition, even if the game occurs in the following year

Motion 12: This motion, if passed, would make it possible to split the GAA season between inter-county and club by stipulating that the All-Ireland Senior Finals should be played on or before the 29th Sunday of the year. The exception would be where the first Sunday falls on January 1st, in which case the finals would be played on or before the 30th Sunday of the Year. In 2021, for example, the 29th Sunday of the year falls on July 18th.

This motion also proposes giving Central Council the power to make other arrangements “in exceptional circumstances.” So, for example, restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic might make it impossible to play the All-Ireland Football Final by the 29th Sunday of the Year in 2021, in which case alternative arrangements will have to be made.

Motion 13:This motion proposes restricting county senior championships to a maximum of 16 teams to help streamline the club season and make it easier to deliver a practical fixtures schedule.

Motion 14: This motion proposes that the winners of the Munster and Leinster U-20 Hurling Championships would proceed directly to playing one another in the All-Ireland Final. Galway and any Ulster team or teams as agreed by the Ulster Council would compete in the Leinster U-20 Hurling Championship.

Motion 15: This motion proposes that a player who plays a Tier 1 senior inter-county hurling championship match would be ineligible to participate in the inter-county U-20 hurling championship in that same year until after his senior inter-county team has been eliminated from the championship.

Motion 16: This motion proposes defined dates by which Post Primary Schools and Third Level All-Ireland Championships must be completed. The Post Primacy Schools All-Ireland Championships shall be competed by the weekend following St. Patrick’s Day. The Sigerson Cup Final shall be played by the 7th Sunday of the Year and the Fitzgibbon Cup by the 8th Sunday of the year.

Motion 17: This motion aims to reconstitute the All-Ireland Junior Football Championship. It proposes a four-team semi-final line up of the winners and runners up of the British Junior Football Championship playing Kilkenny and New York annually.

Motion 20: This motion proposes new penalties for aggressive and cynical fouls in hurling and football.

In hurling, if a player with a goal-scoring opportunity either inside the 20-metre line or the semi-circular arc that extends from the 20 metre line is pulled down, tripped, or struck with a hurley in a careless manner then a penalty shall be awarded and the offender will be yellow-carded and sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes. If the foul committed is a second caution or one that merits a red-card then the offender is ordered off for the remainder of the game including any extra-time to be played.

Similarly, in football, if a cynical foul is committed on an attacking player with a goal-scoring opportunity inside the 20-metre line or the semi-circular arc, then a penalty will be awarded to the team affected.

Motion 21: This motion deals with the advantage rule and is somewhat related to Motion 20. If an aggressive foul is committed then the referee can allow play to continue if he believes the attacking team have a potential goal-scoring opportunity. This period of advantage can last for up to five seconds. If it becomes clear after five seconds that no advantage has accrued, then he can award a free. As Motion 20 has passed, then that would naturally mean a penalty would be awarded if the foul occurred inside the 20-metre line or semi-circular arc.

Motion 22: This motion deals with misconduct by team officials and seeks to define what the categories of misconduct are. It also proposes introducing a scale of sanctions that includes match suspensions rather than time suspensions. The implementation date is for the 2021 All-Ireland Championships in both codes and all grades and then for other competitions it will come into effect in 2022.

Motion 23: This motion relates to Motion 22 and deals with unauthorised incursions onto the field of play. If passed, then no-one will be able to come on to the field of play except a medic summoned by the referee. The sanction for an unauthorised incursion would be a yellow-card. A repeat offence on the day would incur a second yellow-card followed by a red-card which would bar the offender from the pitch enclosure for the remainder of the game including any extra-time. If an individual is ordered off the pitch for a third time, then they would incur a one-match suspension. This motion, if passed, will only come into effect after the cessation of the current Covid-19 protocols.

Motion 24: This motion proposes to extend the scope of the rule dealing with abuse of a racist, sectarian, or anti-inclusion nature against an opponent to also include such abuse against a match official.

Motion 25: Currently a team may start a match with just 13 players but must have a full complement of 15, inclusive of players ordered off or retired through injury, for the start of the second-half. This motion proposes a team may validly finishes a game with 13 players if it has to.

Motion 26: It’s already a foul in football and hurling to attempt to distract a free-taker by waving your arms or hurley, shouting at them, or jumping up and down. This motion proposes extending this rule to include attempting to distract someone in similar fashion while they are taking a puck-out/kick-out or sideline puck/kick.

It’s worth noting that players who simply hold their hurley or arms upright are not regarded as causing an interference.

Motion 27: Currently teams can make a temporary substitution of a player with a blood injury. This motion proposes also allowing the temporary substitution of a player with a suspected head injury.

Motion 28: This motion proposes including the term ‘World GAA’ under the GAA’s Aims and Ethos in the Official Guide.

Motion 30: This motion proposes entitling World GAA to submit a maximum of one motion to Annual Congress every year.

Motion 31: This motion proposes that one representative of World GAA would sit on Central Council.

Motion 32: This motion proposes giving Central Council the power to decide from time to time what geographical area falls under the jurisdiction of World GAA.

Motion 33: This motion seeks to outline the responsibilities and powers of World GAA.

Motion 34: This motion would give Central Council the power to appoint a Chairperson to World GAA.

Motion 38: This motion proposes to extend the requirement of names on team-sheets to be written in Irish to also include the name of the official in charge of the team.

Motion 39: This motion proposes that a club adopt its Official Club Constitution at a General Meeting.

Motion 40: This motion is quite a lengthy and technical one that seeks to update some of the literature of the Club Constitution.

Motion 41: This motion would allow County Hearings Committees to also adjudicate on disciplinary matters arising under the jurisdiction of the Executive Committee of a Club within the County.

Motion 42: This motion proposes that Provincial Conventions shall be held prior to January 18th.

Motion 43: The motion, if passed, would require that any proposed playing rule motions would first have to be referred to the Standing Committee on Playing Rules for assessment and adjudication before being brought to Annual Congress.

Motion 44: This motion seeks to clarify the definition of ‘Other Relevant Connection’ in terms of a player’s eligibility to play for a club/county other than the one of his birth. Basically it would allow the player to play for a club/county that either of his parents were in the catchment area of/resident in at the time of the player’s birth.

Motion 45: This motion seeks to redefine the category of misconduct in terms of playing infractions.

Motion 46: This motion proposes permitting evidence older than 96 weeks to be submitted to a Hearing if the matter is deemed sufficiently serious.

Motion 47: This motion proposes that there shall be no appeal from outside the county regarding a decision of a County Hearings Committee in relation to disciplinary action initiated by the Executive Committee of a Club.



The following motions were deferred probably to a Special Congress in a live setting or the next Congres, whichever might come first:

Motion 1: This motion seeks to clarify the role of the Development Officer in counties. It will do this by replacing the title of ‘County Development Officer’ with ‘County Planning and Training Officer’, and also creates the new role of 'County Safety and Facilities Officer'.

Motion 3: This motion seeks to establish an Audit and Risk Committee within counties and provinces. There’s already one established at national level, and this motion, if passed, would see that Central Audit and Risk Committee also enshrined into rule. The motivation here is to promote good governance and financial oversight.

Motion 9: This motion comes from Fermanagh club St. Patrick’s GFC. Currently a walk-over does not count as the next game in a competition for players or officials who have been suspended. This motion proposes that it should only not count for the players and team officials from the club who have conceded the game.

Motion 11: This motion seeks to extend the definition of a county committee to include a County Safety and Facilities Officer.

Motions 18&19: Both motions propose alternative structures for All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

Motion 29: This motion seeks to redefine the representation of international units at Annual Congress.

Motion 35 & 36: These two motions relate to playing eligibility, transfers, and declarations within the sphere of World GAA.

Motion 37: This motion proposes giving World GAA the scope to settle disputes that may arise without recourse to the Disputes Resolution Authority.