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GAA to meet with Aussie bosses over talent drain


THE GAA will meet with Aussie Rules bosses within the next three weeks to see if they can patch up their turbulent recent relationship. But GAA President Nicky Brennan admitted yesterday that nothing which transpires will stop the GAA's current 'talent drain' to Australia.

Armagh teenager Kevin Dyas, already a county senior player, is expected to be the next underage star to take up the offer to play professionally Down Under and Brennan said that the upcoming negotiations are unlikely to stem that tide.

The GAA hope to officially meet the AFL before the rugby World Cup final to discuss the viability of any future international series and Brennan said that the issue of AFL clubs increasingly scouting Ireland's best underage talent will be raised.

"The feedback I'm getting is that there's an annoyance there (from county boards)," Brennan said. "But I've said all along that we can't stop these young players from going. It's their free choice and certainly I think we will not be putting rules in place to stop it.''

"Whether or not we continue with the International Rules games I honestly don't think that will have any great impact on whether these players travel Down Under to play Aussie Rules," he conceded.

Brennan was adamant this time last year about ending the international series after Australia's overphysical approach and has denied he is now making a u-turn by talking to them.

"The feedback I've received from managers and players is a wish that the series should continue. As president, I have to consider their views and the discussions will simply see whether the series can be resurrected, but my annoyance with what happened last year hasn't changed," he said, describing the upcoming meeting as "talks about talks".

Despite the rift that saw this year's series cancelled, AFL clubs have continued to scout heavily in Ireland, upping the ante particularly because of the quick progress of recent recruits like Laois' s Colm Begley and Down's Martin Clarke to the AFL senior ranks.


Ironically, several of those recent Irish AFL recruits are currently home competing in their local club championships.

Setanta and Aisake O'hAilpin came off the bench for Na Piarsaigh last weekend when they were beaten in the Cork SFC by Nemo Rangers.

Brennan clarified yesterday that the format of the 2009 National Hurling League will be finalised at the next Central Council meeting on December 8 and will likely stay in place up to 2010 but he admitted that last weekend's controversial hurling championship re-vamp demonstrates the difficulties.

"You've got to bear in mind the following," he stressed. "There's no appetite to change the Munster Championship, Galway want to stay in Connacht and Leinster don't want Galway in Leinster. Antrim want to play in Ulster. Yet they want to play elsewhere and the provincial winners want to then automatically get into semis.

"Trying to come up with a solution that satisfies everybody is nigh impossible."

Meanwhile, training GAA referees should be made easier with a new CD designed to help them refresh their knowledge of the rules, but it may still not help eradicate umpire cock-ups.

Over 450 new referees were recruited by the GAA last year and 754 umpires were called in for special training, according to PJ McGrath, chairman of the National Referees Committee.

But despite an embarrassing umpiring mistake in the All-Ireland minor final, the GAA will not use video replays to settle scoring arguments because there is not enough cameras at all venues to make this fool-proof.

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