Wednesday 13 December 2017

Cavan star Johnston poised to take DRA route in bid to join McGeeney’s Kildare

Cavan's Seanie Johnston is hoping to continue his inter-county career with Kildare on the basis that he is now resident in the county
Cavan's Seanie Johnston is hoping to continue his inter-county career with Kildare on the basis that he is now resident in the county
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Cavan footballer Seanie Johnston used an address in Straffan to correspond with Croke Park over his attempt to seek an inter-county transfer to Kildare last week, it has emerged.

Over the weekend Johnston, eager to switch to the Lilywhites having been dropped from the Breffni panel in October, met with officials of his club Cavan Gaels to urge them to support him with a case to the Disputes Resolution Authority in the coming days.

He has until Thursday to seek a DRA hearing, seven days on from his failure at Central Appeals level in Croke Park.

Johnston is believed to have had talks with Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney over a prospective move.

Naturally the acquisition of a talented forward like Johnston would appeal to McGeeney and align with his attempts to build a stronger squad in 2012, especially up front where real cutting edge has been a problem in the bigger games.

But so far Johnston has been unwilling to seek a transfer away from his club, with whom he has had so much success -- he was even captain of last year.

That may change, however, in the coming days if a club-backed DRA submission does not materialise.

"Any move to the DRA is a matter for the club now," he said. "I'm 27 now and I want to continue playing inter-county football but I don't want to leave my club. It's hugely important to me.

"But I'm resident in Kildare now and I'm surplus to requirements in Cavan. That much was clear from the 10-second conversation I had with the manager (Val Andrews) last October.

"But I still feel I have a lot to contribute at inter-county level. You only have short time at this level and I'd like to make it count."

Johnston submitted a letter to Croke Park prior to Christmas seeking an inter-county transfer on the basis that he had an address in Straffan in Kildare.

The request was turned down because it contravened GAA rules which require that a player can only play for a county if he is a native of it or plays with a club within that county. Residency is not sufficient.

In some cases, if one of the parents of the player comes from a particular county then the player can declare for that county. Cavan were able to bring Gareth Smith on board in 2009 through this facility despite the fact that he lived in Dublin and played with St Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Ruadh.

Johnston brought his case to the appeals committee on Wednesday night last and Croke Park are understood to have corresponded with him through his Straffan address. He works as a teacher in Breffni College in Cavan town.

The cost of a DRA hearing could be prohibitive for an individual. On top of the €1,000 submission fee there are legal fees to consider if a case against the GAA is lost, which could climb up to the region of €5,000 or beyond.

Johnston accepts that if there is no DRA hearing he would be faced with a stark choice -- to leave his club to pursue his inter-county dream.

"Someone else has made a decision to end my inter-county career. I respect a manager's right to make that decision. But does that mean that I have to cease being an inter-county player?" he asked.

"If there is no DRA move I have a decision to make then, one which I would make carefully after sitting down with people close to me.

"Some people will be annoyed with me in Cavan over my wish to move, but these are the circumstances I find myself in. I'm no longer a Cavan player."

The former DCU student, who spent Christmas in Australia, has been Cavan's highest-profile forward in recent years, but had a poor 2011 on the field for both club and county.

"I'd admit that I was poor, but I would add that it was one of Cavan's poorest seasons too," he said.

When Andrews was putting together a squad for 2012 last October, Johnston, his Cavan Gaels clubmate Micheal Lyng and Dermot Sheridan from Mullahoran were among the more established players omitted.

"The conversation to tell me I was surplus to requirements lasted no more than 10 seconds. I knew it was coming because Micheal Lyng, who is a friend of mine, also got the same call and was asked if he had my number," said Johnston.

"I wasn't looking for anything special but after nine seasons with the county I might have been entitled to a little more compassion."

Andrews could not be contacted last night.

It is not clear if Johnston's omission from the squad will remain for the entire season or if there will be an opportunity for him to return.

Cavan PRO Declan Woods believes it is not a matter for the board to comment on Johnston's appeal.

"The issue is for Croke Park really and how they deal with it. We're happy to leave it in their hands. Obviously we recognise the right of a manager we have appointed to make decision on team and squad selection as he or they see fit," said Woods.

There is a growing feeling that Johnston may be leaning towards a move away from Cavan Gaels to a club in Kildare, which would facilitate his objective.

Cavan Gaels continue to keep an open line of communication with the player and last night their chairman Michael Mooney expressed the desire that he would be back in a Cavan jersey soon.

"We've been discussing the situation with Seanie and we're working towards trying to find a solution," said Mooney. "Obviously we don't want to see one of our players leave the club or indeed the county."

Of how much benefit Johnston would be to Kildare -- who badly need to increase their goal ratio if they are to make that next step up and join Gaelic football's current elite -- is debatable. Even last Sunday in the O'Byrne Cup they dominated a game against Offaly but failed to score a goal.

They have no natural predatory goalscorer, but Johnston has never scored a championship goal with Cavan in eight seasons covering more than 20 appearances. He is, however, a prolific point scorer.

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