Saturday 25 March 2017

Croke Park must clarify criteria for residency

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

A lease agreement and a utility bill did not convince Croke Park that Straffan was Seanie Johnston's permanent address.

It would have satisfied other agencies but not the GAA, who also questioned whether his proposed switch from Cavan to Kildare ran contrary to the Association's ethos.

Now there's a philosophical debate to while away a long winter's night but, meantime, wouldn't the GAA be better occupied formulating a clear definition of what constitutes "permanent residency"?

The CCCC acknowledged in the Johnston decision that specific criteria on residency were not set down in the GAA's Official Guide. So, the CCCC had to define its own and came to the conclusion that Johnston didn't pass them.

It's easy to depict Johnston's attempt to make himself eligible to play for Kildare as a 'stroke' but consider this: if the GAA has failed to define in rule what constitutes 'permanent residency' how can it judge what doesn't?

If, for example, Johnston spent Friday/Saturday/ Sunday nights in Straffan during the school term and lived there full-time during holidays, he would have overnighted away from Cavan for well over half the year. So what's his permanent address?

The GAA needs to clear up the residency issue much more than it needs to worry over ethos. That applies to the club scene too, especially in Dublin, which has seen an influx of players from Leinster counties, in particular. Many of them merited closer inspection than Johnston's case.

As for Johnston, he wants to compete at a level as high as his talent allows but, for reasons known only to themselves, Cavan aren't using him. So what's he to do? Sign off as an inter-county player or follow the dream elsewhere?

The CCCC decision may have ticked a spurious ethics box but it also raises questions on residency which must be urgently addressed.

Irish Independent

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