A team may commence a game with thirteen players but shall have fielded fifteen players, inclusive of players ordered off or retired injured, by the start of the second half. In the event of failure to comply with this, the game shall continue.
In a world of bland conformity, this rule says something of the GAA’s roots. You can turn up and start a match with 13 players, but you’ve got until the start of the second half to race around the parish raiding a few graves to get the full complement. One of the most famous photos of hurling (currently sixth on Google Images) evokes that spirit of all hands to the pump for the club.
Which makes it all the more shocking when a club can’t even rustle together 13 players, which has proven to be the case for Ballyduff Lower who have conceded a walkover to Mount Sion in the County Championship. There seems to be some dispute whether this was absolutely unavoidable (follow this thread on AFR to see some, er, robust argument) but you don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to accept that Ballyduff’s numbers are down significantly on recent years and that that decline is down to unemployment and emigration. Much debate will focus on the desire for pay-for-play in the GAA that has finally – finally! – been articulated by a top player, and that’s fair enough (the debate, not the pay-for-play). But when a club like Ballyduff Lower, not exactly a million miles from a major population and employment centre, is struggling to put together a team, you fear that a lot of human resources are going to be put in to rearranging the furniture in the penthouse while the raging inferno in the ground floor is ignored.