Monday 19 February 2018

Kildare hurling chief lashes transfer 'farce'

Ex Cavan Gaels club footballer and ex Coill Dubh club hurler Seanie Johnston during the game. Photo: Sportsfile
Ex Cavan Gaels club footballer and ex Coill Dubh club hurler Seanie Johnston during the game. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

THE fallout from Seanie Johnston's controversial transfer from Cavan to Kildare rumbles on after a leading Lilywhite official lashed the decision to play Johnston in the county's senior hurling championship last weekend to make him eligible for Kieran McGeeney's footballers.

Kildare hurling board chairman Eddie Lawler hit out at the decision to play Johnston on the Coill Dubh team when addressing club delegates at the monthly county board meeting late on Tuesday night.

Despite finally getting his transfer cleared by Croke Park, Johnston still had to play at club championship level before he could be considered eligible for the Lilywhites.

And with no senior football championship fixtures currently fixed until Kildare end their interest in the All-Ireland series, Johnston could either play hurling or be forced to sit out the Lilies' 2012 campaign.

So, last Saturday, in front of a horde of journalists and TV cameras, the former Cavan footballer started in Coill Dubh's preliminary-round victory over Eire Og/Chorra Choill, but was substituted after less than a minute without touching the ball.

That was enough to make him eligible for selection for the remainder of the year for Kieran McGeeney's football squad, but Lawler felt the whole incident turned the Kildare hurling championship into a "farce."

"It would be remiss of me not to mention what happened last weekend when our flagship competition, the senior hurling championship, was turned into a bit of farce by Seanie Johnston appearing in a Coill Dubh shirt," said Lawler, who was quick to stress that he absolved the club of any wrongdoing.

"I don't blame the Coill Dubh club because they were obviously put under severe pressure to let this man play. No club, no matter who they are, should be subjected to that sort of pressure or interference," said Lawler.

As is the case in many counties, hurling faces a battle for survival in Kildare, where football is by far the more popular sport. And Lawler feels that the job of promoting the sport will be all the more difficult now.

"To say the clubs are angered over what happened would be the understatement of the year," he said. "I've been inundated with calls from the clubs and people around the county and they are very, very unhappy with what happened."

Lawler's comments kicked off a lively debate with many delegates feeling that Kildare GAA had been embarrassed, but there were others who insisted no rules had been broken.

Kildare Central Council delegate Marty McEvoy, a member of Croke Park's management committee, agreed the incident didn't reflect well on Kildare, but felt that the association didn't come out with much credit either.

Rubberstamped

This was the first year where players making inter-county transfers were required to play in club championship before their switch was rubberstamped and that change of rule saw London rearrange their club fixtures to ensure they had a full hand to pick from for their Connacht SFC campaign.

"Unfortunately, there is the view that the brand of Kildare has been damaged and I can certainly agree with how you could have that view, but I also believe that the association itself has been damaged by the saga," said McEvoy.

"Some of the requests made to that individual (Johnston) were completely above and beyond what has even been asked of anybody else who has ever wished to transfer. Some of the requests that were asked of him were wrong, there was no need for them."

Earlier this week, Gaelic Players' Association chief Dessie Farrell appealed for the issue to be parked. However, the saga will rumble on until Sunday week at least, when Johnston could make his Kildare debut against his former Cavan team-mates.

Irish Independent

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