Handy pop at Dublin as George moves to Ballymun
YET another high-profile player transfer from Laois to Dublin football has prompted the revelation that the O'Moore County contemplated putting forward a motion at next year's Congress to stop clubs from the capital poaching their players.
Sean George is the latest talented youngster who has applied to move clubs -- from Mountmellick to Ballymun Kickhams -- and the Laois U-21 player also looks likely to transfer his county allegiance to Dublin.
Several Laois clubs have protested over the number of players they have lost to Dublin clubs recently, but George's case is unique as he is originally from Ballymun.
He moved to Laois when he was nine or 10 and is now back living in Dublin.
George came through Laois' underage programme and played for the county's U-21s for the past two years, but he now looks likely to declare for Dublin and could be recruited by their U-21s for the coming season.
Mountmellick were furious at losing star man John O'Loughlin to Blanchardstown side St Brigid's last year. That transfer saw O'Loughlin win a Dublin senior title this season, and he lines out in the Leinster club SFC final on Sunday.
The Laois club are now resigned to also losing George, whose transfer has still to be completed.
That prompted Laois secretary Niall Handy to have a pop at Dublin.
Handy has revealed that the Laois GAA executive, in tandem with Mountmellick, considered putting a motion to next year's Congress "to stop players going to Dublin clubs unless they could prove they were living in the capital for 48 weeks."
Handy said this plan was abandoned only after "we decided it wasn't fair, in the end, to those players transferring for genuine purposes."
The O'Moore County secretary pointed out that seven Laois clubs -- Annanough, Ballyroan Abbey, Clonaslee/St Manman's, Mountmellick, Portlaoise, Stradbally and Timahoe -- have all lost quality players to Dublin clubs in recent years, though inter-county star Colm Parkinson subsequently returned to his native Portlaoise.
"We are very disappointed to see it (this recruitment pattern) wasn't mentioned in the 'Blue Wave' -- that Dublin have no problem in accepting these players into their system," said Handy, in reference to Dublin's recently unveiled five-year strategy document.
The controversial subject was actually broached earlier this week by Dublin's chief executive John Costello in his annual report to convention. Costello suggested that some club transfers in the county seemed to be "testing both the eligibility laws and the ethos of our games," and he suggested a radical form of action to curtail them.
"Maybe it's time that Dublin introduced their own bye-law that obligated any player who plays club football or hurling in the capital to declare for Dublin," Costello mused.
"It would be very interesting to see what the effect would be on the volume of 'transfer traffic' to our clubs."
Mountmellick stressed yesterday that they will not contest George's transfer and were grateful for his previous dedication, but described themselves as "decimated" by a combination of club transfers and emigration.
"It's dreadful to lose young people of the calibre of Sean and John (O'Loughlin) and other young men," Mountmellick chairman Michael Gormley said. "We have been decimated in Mountmellick. We have almost half a team in Australia.
"It's hard to move on from there, but the Laois County Board will have to do something -- and the GAA in general -- to stop the transfer of young people from their local clubs.
"It's taking them from the community. It's not right. I don't agree with it."
Dublin clubs, down the decades, have always benefited by signing players who have moved to the city for work, but whether some of them have been deliberately poached is a moot point.
Ballymun manager Paul Curran said yesterday that George -- a utility player who can operate anywhere between both '45s' -- is desperate to play for them.
"He wants to play for Ballymun," Curran pointed out. "He was born in Dublin and is already back living in Ballymun, so I think it's more straight-forward than most cases.
"Nobody likes to lose their up-and-coming players, particularly rural clubs, where numbers wouldn't be huge. But we are delighted to have him at the same time."
It is believed that George would have been a serious contender to join Justin McNulty's Laois senior panel.