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Last Updated: Friday, 11 April, 2003, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
A tame Congress on the cards
Sean McCague skilfully steered the GAA through some difficult moments
Sean McCague will be replaced by Kerryman Sean Kelly

This weekend's Annual GAA Congress is Belfast looks likely to be a relatively tame affair.

With the contentious Rule 42 issue not on the agenda after a blunder which saw a motion on the Croke Park issue ruled out of order, there appear to be no major hot potatoes to handle.

Motions to have match bans as opposed to time duration suspensions will be debated and will benefit the association if passed.

The main development of the weekend will be the installation of president-elect Sean Kelly who will take over from Sean McCague.

The Monaghan man will hand over the reins to Kerry native Kelly on Saturday afternoon.

Kelly has the reputation of having more liberal tendancies than the conservative McCague so many feel that the days of Rule 42 are numbered.

Over the last two years, the Kerry man has been on record as pointing out the heavy costs of the Croke Park redevelopment.

However, some doubt whether Kelly has the force of personality to force through a change which although it may be a financial imperative, would annoy the old guard.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern: Had many dealing with Sean McCague

McCague, would doubtless play down the claim, but the legacy of his reign for most will be the removal of Rule 21 in November 2001.

Political realities meant McCague couldn't afford to take major plaudits from within the association for the move but he deserves credit for having had the courage to lance the boil.

McCague's presidency was marked by strength with the Monaghan man quite able to mix it with the Irish Government on occasions while still leaving himself wriggle room.

The events of Congress 2001 probably marked McCague's high point when he somehow managed to convince Bertie Ahern to pledge 76 million Euro to aid the Croke Park redevelopment.

As it transpired, a mere 38m materialised as the Celtic Tiger ran out of steam and the Stadium Ireland project hit terminal trouble.

McCague's refusal to play ball with the Irish Government over their outlandish plans to host Euro 2008 annoyed Mr Ahern.

Dara O Se affair

However, McCague's stance was predictable given that the Taoiseach had forgotten to ask the GAA in advance whether Croke Park would be available for the competition.

McCague bravely railed against county boards who found it convenient not to enforce suspensions on star players ahead of major games.

The Dara O Se affair last summer indicated that there was still work to do which hopefully will be rectified at this weekend's Congress.

All in all, even those who don't agree with many of McCague's core beliefs have to admit that his three years was a skilful stewardship of the association.

Congress starts at the Europa Hotel on Friday afternoon and continues through to Saturday evening.

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