Saturday 18 November 2017

Kavanagh embroiled in club v county row

Down's Danny Hughes and Kieran Fitzgerald of Galway chatting at the launch of the Allianz Football League at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Down's Danny Hughes and Kieran Fitzgerald of Galway chatting at the launch of the Allianz Football League at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

LONGFORD have called for the intervention of Croke Park officials to help secure the release of their best-known player for their opening Allianz Football League match on Sunday.

Kilmacud Crokes have informed Longford that Brian Kavanagh, star of their Leinster club final win over Rhode, will not be allowed to play for his county in their Division 4 match against Roscommon at Pearse Park.

As the 2011 Football League was launched at headquarters yesterday, with a special emphasis on new ways to promote the games over the next 10 weeks, Longford were left to digest the news that the southside Dublin city giants had "withdrawn the services" of Kavanagh, a full three weeks before they play their All-Ireland club semi-final against Ulster champions Crossmaglen Rangers.

Admittedly, none of the St Brigid's squad are likely to be playing with Roscommon, while Crossmaglen and Nemo Rangers players are also understood stood to have reached agreement with their county managers to remain with their clubs over the period.

However, Longford chairman Pat Cahill has come out strongly against Kilmacud Crokes' apparent insistence that Kavanagh (below) should not feature in their league opener. Longford's plight once again highlights the problems of a calendar that remains over-congested at this time of year.

Other spats between clubs, counties and colleges are expected to surface over the next few weeks as the GAA enters arguably its busiest period in terms of volume of matches.

"We thought we would be having this problem for our second game against Fermanagh, which is one week before the club semi-finals, and we'd have to understand a reluctance on Crokes' behalf in that instance," said Cahill.

"But over the weekend, Crokes made a decision to withdraw Brian's services from Longford and that has been conveyed to us by their manager Paddy Carr."

The Longford chairman claimed that the decision was "illogical" and called on Croke Park officials to intervene.

He said there was a particular irony in Kavanagh's potential absence as the Roscommon game was one of two that Longford officials were targeting as part of the promotional drive for the forthcoming league campaign.

"We drove down to Portlaoise on Wednesday of last week with other Leinster counties to listen to Christy Cooney and Lisa Clancy (GAA's communications director) deliver a presentation about how to promote the games," said Cahill.

"The idea is that we target two home games for particular promotion. One of our targeted games is next Sunday and we are now distributing 1,000 tickets to schools, making players available for media and taking other such initiatives.

"But it's very hard for us to promote anything if Brian Kavanagh is not going to be available a full three weeks before his club game. Should a club as big as Kilmacud have the power to do this? I think the leading GAA officials should have a view on this.

"We're all for playing our part in promoting the league. However, if we lose to Roscommon and then lose to Fermanagh, our chance of promotion is effectively gone and we may as well pack up until the championship again for the following six weeks."

Cahill said his views are shared by Longford manager Glenn Ryan, but emphasised that they had no issue with Kavanagh.

"As far as I am concerned, Brian wants to play for Longford on Sunday. He has told us that. Everyone in Longford looks up to Brian. We were down in Portlaoise to cheer him on last week. He's a star in our part of the country."

Kilmacud Crokes have been on collision courses before over the withdrawal of players from other competitions. Two years ago, the Dublin U-21s had to do without their captain Kevin Nolan and Rory O'Carroll for a Leinster quarter-final against Meath and Crokes also stopped their players from competing in the colleges competitions while they were still preparing for the All-Ireland semi-final and final.

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy is already resigned to being without the Crokes players in his squad for the foreseeable future and Carr has credited Gilroy for his understanding on the issue. But Cahill insisted that Dublin's situation is not comparable with Longford's.

"We need our best players all the time. That's a fact of life in a county like Longford," he said. "There's a 13-day rule that should be applied across the board.

"Plenty of players play for their clubs three weeks before a county championship match. I don't see why a county like Longford shouldn't have that same entitlement when the roles are reversed."

Kavanagh has not trained with Longford so far this year, but has attended twice in recent weeks to show his support for the team. Carr was not available for comment last night.

Irish Independent

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