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Howlin rejects criticism of colleges

LEINSTER Council chairman Sheamus Howlin has urged inter-county managers to look at the bigger picture and respect the role that third-level colleges play in Gaelic games.

Howlin was responding to the annual blizzard of criticism from GAA managers who are left without so many of their college-tied players at this time of the season.

Colleges that compete in the O'Byrne, McGrath and Dr McKenna Cup competitions and the Connacht League have first call on county players. This continues to aggravate managers, particularly those recently installed who are keen to put their best foot forward as quickly as possible.

The clash of interest is so serious that DCU manager Niall Moyna suggested last weekend that the level of disharmony could determine there is "no need" for third level any more.

"Right now you have to look at third level and say is it worth it?" said Professor Moyna.

"If you are going to have this hassle every year and players are always caught in the middle, maybe there is no need for third level anymore and I'm very serious in saying that.".

"Maybe there is enough with senior and U-21. If it's not going to be done at an appropriate level and we don't have the time and effort to develop players then there is no point in having colleges.

"It's not going to work and it can't continue this way."

But Howlin, a member of the GAA's management committee, says the importance of third-level GAA cannot be overstated.

"Gaelic games are clearly the strongest sports in all of the country's third-level institutes and their role in helping to produce better players and administrators cannot be ignored," argued the Wexford man.

"Managers really have to look at the overall picture. They have to realise the importance that third level plays in the GAA's structures. We, as an organisation, are very strong in that sector.

"Colleges have brought great organisation to gaelic games. They have enhanced the games. Some managers think only of what's best for them."

Irish Independent