Saturday 18 November 2017

Johnston creates squalid precedent

Eamonn Sweeney

That Eamonn O'Hara is some eejit, isn't he? There he is killing himself to get back from a cruciate ligament injury so he can play for Sligo in this year's championship. The man is 36, this is his 19th championship season and what does he have to show for it? One measly Connacht title.

He should have picked a row with Sligo years ago and gone off to play for some county which wins All-Irelands.

Declan Browne was as bad. All those years slogging away on Tipperary teams when he was one of the best forwards in the country. Wouldn't it have been more sensible to get a job in Dublin or Cork and play in a few major finals? Fools the pair of them.

Okay, I don't believe a word of that. Only a complete amadán would think that about O'Hara or Browne. But it's the logical conclusion to arguing that it's okay for Seanie Johnston to move from Cavan to Kildare.

Because if it's alright for players to make a move to bigger counties to which they have, let's be kind here, a tenuous connection, it follows that O'Hara and Browne and John Galvin and Dessie Dolan and Marty McGrath missed a trick all these years and should have moved further afield. Yet very few GAA fans would regard these players, and the stints they've put in for their counties, as anything other than heroic.

Why? Because in our heart of hearts we know that the GAA is founded on the idea that where possible players play for their native counties and parishes. This idea gives the Association a lot of its nobility, its uniqueness and even its very meaning. A GAA where players from weaker counties decamp willy-nilly to stronger counties in search of honours simply wouldn't be the GAA most people know and love.

I'm aware that Seanie Johnston was dropped from the Cavan panel. But the man is only 27 and has the option of trying to win his place back rather than going off in a huff. It's unthinkable that the next Cavan manager wouldn't have restored him to the panel.

And if he did want to leave the county, Longford would have been a far more convenient destination for a player based in Cavan town. But then Longford aren't All-Ireland contenders. It's pretty squalid stuff on Johnston's part and may yet have a knock-on effect which is terribly damaging to the Association as a whole.

The argument in favour of allowing such moves will be made through the invocation of our old friend 'progress' and probably include the line 'in this day and age'. The idea that the wants of the individual should trump the greater good of the community was central to the Celtic Tiger era, an era when we were told that selfishness was a good thing which would drive the economy ever onwards and upwards.

Well, we know where that got us. But, as in the debate over payment for managers and even perhaps for players, the GAA is being urged to accept ideas from an era whose time has passed and whose drawbacks are increasingly evident. Makes no sense at all.

You know what I really think about Eamonn O'Hara? That he's had about as honourable a career as it's possible for a sportsman to have and that every time he took the field I was proud to be from the same county as him. I'm certain Tipp people felt the same about Declan Browne.

Who'll feel proud of Seanie Johnston?

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