Fennell's Dublin future in doubt
EAMON Fennell's controversial club transfer saga is putting a serious question mark over his inter-county future and could leave him out in the cold with Dublin as early as the next fortnight.
The Fennell saga could come to a head inside the next two weeks should the Dublin midfielder's current club, O'Tooles, become involved in a relegation battle.
As Fennell has not yet refused to line out for his club, he remains eligible to line out for Pat Gilroy's county side and is expected to do so when the Dubs travel to Navan to take on Meath in the O'Byrne Cup tonight.
However, results in Dublin's SFL Division 2 games -- between St Patrick's, Palmerstown and St Mark's and Naomh Olaf versus Skerries Harps on Sunday -- could yet determine whether O'Tooles have to play the following weekend to preserve their league status for 2010.
Fennell has gone on record, as recently as a fortnight ago, saying that there was "definitely no going back" to the north city club. However, should the midfielder refuse to play at that point, it is expected that he would become ineligible to line out for Gilroy's side.
The development brings new urgency to the situation which escalated when Fennell was again denied a transfer to St Vincent's in the most dramatic of circumstances on Monday night, with the player now believed to be considering going to the DRA.
In a dramatic twist, Dublin County Board chairman Gerry Harrington had the casting vote after delegates were split 33-33 on the issue. And despite being part of a management committee that recommended the transfer be sanctioned, Harrington voted to deny the request and retain the status quo.
In a statement issued yesterday by Dublin secretary John Costello, the county board bye-laws were outlined, and it was underlined how they appear to weigh heavily in favour of a player's current club
"As the GAA is community centred, based on the allegiance of its members to their local clubs, the object of which is to promote the Association's aims at local level, the transfer rules in the official guide and this bye-law reflect that ethos.
"A player is considered to always owe allegiance and loyalty to the club he first legally participated with in club competition."
According to the official statement, the rules say that officials should "be cognisant of the role played by his current club in nurturing and developing the player, consider the potential impact of the transfer of the player on his current club and consider the potential impact of the transfer of the player on the promotion of the Association's aims in Dublin, in reaching their determination."
O'Tooles refused to comment when contacted yesterday, but did confirm that they will be asking Fennell to play should they be fixed for relegation play-off action on the weekend after next.
The club, who reached the last 16 of the Dublin SF championship last year in the absence of Fennell, intend to release a statement when the issue has been resolved and have previously stated a desire to see him line out for the club once more.
It's an unwelcome distraction for Dublin, who are preparing for their O'Byrne Cup replay with Meath in Pairc Tailteann tonight (throw-in 7.45). With Shane Ryan's switch to hurling and Ciaran Whelan's retirement, Dublin are light in the way of midfield options and Fennell has impressed so far this season, with Gilroy stating the he intends to keep playing him until he is told otherwise.
Meanwhile, Meath manager Eamonn O'Brien is expected to make a number of changes. O'Brien will not risk Seamus Kenny after he picked up a dead leg in the drawn game, while Eoghan Harrington is also expected to sit out the match as a precaution.
Gary O'Brien, who replaced Kenny at Parnell Park, is expected to start tonight while Brian Meade, Stephen Bray and Cormac McGill are all also in line for selection. David Lyons should continue in goals as both Paddy O'Rourke and Brendan Murphy recover from slight knocks ahead of what is Dublin's first trip to Navan in 21 years.