Boys fight GAA over right to play for local club
TWO schoolboys may give up sport altogether because the GAA will not let them play for the club they love, the High Court was told yesterday.
Brothers Padraic (14) and Colin (8) O'Sullivan are being deprived of their right to play football because they have been told they must play for a club seven miles from their home.
The boys want to play for Listry GAA club, which is just over a mile from their home at Ballytransna, Faha, Killarney, in Co Kerry.
But because they live in the parish of Firies, they have been told by the Kerry county board that they must play for the Ballyhar-Firies club, which is more than seven miles away.
They are seeking a court injunction restraining the secretary of the county board, Peter Twiss, from preventing or restricting them from playing for Listry.
The boys, taking the case through their mother Christine O'Sullivan, are asking the court to rule that they should be exempted from rule 20 of the GAA bye-laws, governing playing for one's parish.
They claim that failure to do this is in breach of their right to freedom of association under the Constitution.
In an affidavit, Mrs O'Sullivan said that while they are located in the parish of Ballyhar-Fieries, the boys have no real connection with it. To all intents and purposes, the boys treat Listry GAA club as "their back garden or playground".
Opening the case yesterday, senior counsel for the family, Ercus Stewart, said if the boys could not play for the club they love, they may give up sport altogether because the GAA has a monopoly on the organisation of the game.
"They may be technically from Firies, but their hearts and souls are in Listry," he said.
Their parents would not allow the boys to walk or cycle to Firies and there was no public transport from their home to the club, he said.
Counsel said the family had brought High Court proceedings in 2009 over the matter.
The parties agreed that it should be referred to the GAA's Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA). The DRA found the board had, in effect, delegated its decision-making power to the clubs involved.
It sent the matter back to the county board and required that written submissions be invited from the O'Sullivans and other interested parties.
However, counsel said, the O'Sullivans' submission was not circulated in advance of a county board meeting on July 5 last year and its contents were only read out to delegates.
A vote of 33-21 was taken by delegates, refusing the boys permission to play for Listry. There were 20 abstentions.
Mrs O'Sullivan and her husband Michael have spent over five years attempting to get a derogation from the parish rule.
The family has a historical connection with Listry, she said, adding that the boys attend or have attended the local Faha National School and that players who attended that school would have little allegiance to Firies. There is considerable rivalry between Listry and Fieries, she explained.
The case continues before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan.