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GAA must get house in order over residency

Kerry travel to Thurles tomorrow to play Tipperary and it looks like Seanie Johnston will be on his way from Cavan to Kildare.

The GAA residency rules are strict enough, but nowhere near as tight as rugby. South African-born Leinster hooker Richardt Strauss will be eligible to play for Ireland in October.

There are two qualifying criteria. Firstly, the player must not have played for his country. Isa Nacewa came on for a few seconds for Fiji and so is not qualified to play for Ireland, even though he does have the three years residency.

There's another aspect. Nacewa and Strauss live thousands of miles away from their qualifying countries. The logistical difficulties for Nacewa, in particular, are not overwhelming, but you would hardly go to Fiji for a day trip to the seaside as it would take you two days to get there.

The present transfer system goes back to the nights of the ghost train when it was deemed unfair to force players to travel long distances to practice and play with their native counties.

Old men tell of cycling 60 miles to the train station in Tralee. The train travelled through the night to Dublin and back the next day and night. The Irish rugby team will be leaving for New Zealand on Tuesday and will probably get there quicker than the ghost riders.

Cavan to Straffan (Seanie's Kildare base) is about a two-hour drive. It's hardly the Kon Tiki expedition.

The case is a legal minefield. Even Rumpole of the Bailey would have trouble figuring out this one.

One interpretation is Seanie is now a Kildare player and that's it. Another view is that the case has still to be decided by the Four Cs after they digest Johnston's positive result from the Central Appeals Committee and weigh it up against their own findings -- in other words, is Johnston really a live-in Lily?

They can hardly force him to wear an electronic tag around his ankle like someone under house arrest. The Four Cs should raise the white flag and hand Seanie the white jersey.

Why would Kildare invite such grief? Maybe they're still reeling from the trauma of the late 1970s when Larry Tompkins and Shea Fahy transferred to Cork.

The difference, though, is Tompkins travelled home from the US to work in West Cork and Fahy, an army officer, was billeted in Cork city for a few years before the transfer.

The GAA must introduce stiffer, simpler residency rules. Rugby have it just about right.

The two-hour journey from North Kerry to Thurles is no great hardship if you stop off at Holy Cross.

The ruined church has been beautifully restored and a prayer said here goes straight to God.

Peace comes dripping through the stillness if you stop at Holy Cross in the evening. The Suir flows by and you can get a pint in the pub almost joined on to the old abbey. This is God's own country and there's scarcely a tonsure on the lush-grassed May prairies. For the monks, no more than the Four Cs, it was all about location, location, location.

Kerry will travel the long journey, but stopovers for dear feeds are over. Long ago it was come-all-yes and tea from bottles insulated by woolly wellington socks. Now it's wraps and flasks.

The good times came not that long after the last ghost train was scrapped.

A car full of Kerrymen was on the way to Fitzgerald Stadium and they got into deep discussion as to what was the greatest invention of all time.

One man said it was the wheel, another the electric light bulb, but the iconoclast driver won the day with his nomination, because, if he didn't, there would be no stopover for porter in Roche's of Lyre on the way home.

The winner was not the internet or penicillin or even the sliced pan. It was, of course, the thermos flask. The driver was asked to explain "even though we know you're dead right."

"Well," he reasoned, "when I pours my hot soup offa the range and into the flask in winter time, two hours later when I takes a sup, it's as hot as when it left my own stove. And then in summer on a roastin' hot day in the bog, I takes gulps of red lemonade and it's just as cold as when it left my own fridge."

"But why does that make the flask the greatest invention of all time?" asked the passenger with the enquiring mind.

"Ah, but how do I know?"

And who are we to say the driver was in any way wrong?

How do I know Kerry will win The All-Ireland? I just do. Like the flask. But we must issue a profits warning. Kerry are sound lads and have excellent skills, but they do not mark tightly enough. We stand off too far -- it's like dancing with your mother.

Irish Independent