So here I am, brushing the cobwebs off the blog, from Cork where I’m at the GAA’s Annual Congress in Cork. I should state from the start that I’m not a delegate here; I’m an executive tagger-onner – Ciara’s dad  is finishing up as President after three years at the helm, and we’re here supporting him as it all finishes up. It’s been quite the three years but that’s for another blog.
A few first impressions:
While it’s not like an Árd Fheis where you’re smothered from the outset with flyers asking you to vote, this is as close as the GAA gets to a trade show. Thus, everyone from O’Neills and Azzurri to Sportsfile and Baker IT is downstairs shifting wares; even artificial turf installers and floodlight suppliers are here, hoping that passing delegates might be from clubs interested in having work one.
While it’s not typically perceived as so, it’s a real mixture of young and old here – not that the stereotypical delegate would be defied by the existence of a “Ladies’ Tour” for the wives of delegates to mosey around Cork on the Saturday while the Congress itself continues apace in Rochestown, near Douglas. There are some very young – I literally mean teenage – delegates around, assumably people who proposed motions from clubs who have gotten motions onto the Clár. It’s good to see.
The design of the GAA’s standard wares has become very slick and professional. Congress two years ago in Kilkenny – and, from what I’ve seen, everything up to that – was a raggletaggle design mixed bag; Kilkenny’s was the predictable amber-and-black combo everywhere possible. Since the GAA rebranded, simultaneously with Congress at Sligo last year, it’s been a much more unified and dignified affair; this year the booklets of working group and committee reports, and the Congress Clár itself, are works of staggering professionalism with some truly incredible photography included therein.
This evening, as is customary, Congress dealt with financial matters and the Ard-Stiurthoir’s report. Financial things, despite The Climate, look okay – the notable sums being that Championship gate receipts in 2008 were slightly down on an all-time peak of 2007, and the Foreign Games took in €15m. Now, admittedly, this money has been ringfenced for capital projects and isn’t being treated as the staple income, and without it the Association would still turn profit. Nonetheless, it’ll be quite a hole to plug given it will have been customary for quite a bit by the time it disappears in 2010’s accounts.
Paraic Duffy’s report was a thorough affair; the usual ream of well-thought-out suggestions that the Árd-Stiúrthóir’s report brings before they’re promptly forgotten, as fate has proven in the past. Fingers crossed for otherwise.
Tomorrow’s business kicks off at 10am with reports and motions from the Rules Taskforce, followed by debate on the experimental rules  which provide the main talking point. The outgoing President’s address is scheduled for 12.30pm but is likely to have to be shifted in accordance with business; the official handover to Christy Cooney is set for 5pm but likewise may be subject to the whims of the floor.
With any luck I’ll be tweeting (using the tag #gaa2009) and blogging from the floor – there’s also live feeds  on RTE.ie for those interested.