Saturday 25 May 2019

'It's a disgrace' - Dad hits out at possible ban for club after they hosted fundraising match in his honour

Pictured from left to right are Paul Dillon, his baby daughter Daisy, wife Emma, daughter Lilly and daughter Heidi at her communion.
Pictured from left to right are Paul Dillon, his baby daughter Daisy, wife Emma, daughter Lilly and daughter Heidi at her communion.
Stock photo: Sportsfile

Allison Bray

A former GAA football player and coach who is battling Motor Neuron Disease has hit out at the controversy over the possible eight-week suspension of his local club for ‘hosting’ a fundraising match in his honour.

Father-of-three Paul Dillon, (45), from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal said he was taken aback that his local GAA club, Naomh Colmcille, could now face possible sanctions for allowing a charity football match to raise funds to help him manage his illness go ahead.

“I think it’s a disgrace,” he told Independent.ie this afternoon.

“I’m behind the club and it isn’t their fault,” he said.

However, the local county board issued a statement earlier today stating that the club was investigated for allegedly hosting an unauthorised match, which is against GAA rules. But the club has not been suspended pending the outcome of an appeal.

"In clarification, the club is not currently suspended but the findings of an investigation has recommended suspension for eight weeks – this is the minimum period of suspension for holding an unauthorised tournament,” the board’s statement read.

It said the club has the right to “prove these findings incorrect or misapplied” and the board would not be commenting further.

Some players from the club where Mr Dillon was a popular underage coach took part in a 7-a-side match held on a former soccer pitch that the club now uses as a training pitch.

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The once-off event was to help raise funds to retrofit Mr Dillon’s home to make it accessible by wheelchair, which he now requires for mobility.

“The whole community played. The Gaelic club had nothing to do with it,” he said.

“A few of them (club members) played. But it was just a days’ craic to raise a bit of money,” he said of €5,200 that was raised for him on the day.

The match was just part of a number of local fundraising events organised by local councillor Paul Canning to raise funds to build an extension to Mr Dillon’s home after he received the devastating diagnosis last Christmas.

“I was appointed the chairperson of a group tasked with fundraising so that an extension could be built out the back of Paul’s house to help suit his needs. We were able to raise €85,000 overall that included fun runs, carriage rides, tractor runs and a game of football that was no more than a bit of craic,” Mr Canning told ‘Pundit Arena’ this week.

“The pitch that we used was an old soccer field with an athletics track surrounding it, however, the two clubs haven’t really been operating so the parish signed the lease over to the GAA club.”

“We used half the pitch and had a 7-a-side game. It was only a bit of carry-on, a few teams made up of locals coming together for a neighbour. The game had nothing to do with the GAA club,” he told the sports website.

Mr Canning could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.

However, Mr Dillon said the ensuing furore is ridiculous and it ‘overshadows’ the good intentions of the community.

“I think it’s so sad. They were just trying to raise a few pounds,” he said.

But he said he was overwhelmed with the generosity of people from the village of 1,500 who came together to support him and his family.

“It’s unbelievable for the size of our village. I’m just grateful, I couldn’t thank them enough,” he said.

Meanwhile, his friend and former colleague John Tinney said locals are outraged over the controversy.

“It was only a community coming together to support one of their own,” he said. “I’m hoping the board will have a bit of cop on.”

He worked alongside Mr Dillon for 25 years as a butcher at the local Eurospar shop and described his friend as a very popular local man.

“He’s just one of them that if you’re in bad form will lift you up,” he said.

“He wouldn’t say a bad word about anyone,” he said.

And despite his grim diagnosis, he said Mr Dillon is “in great spirits and taking it one day at a time. He’s keeping the craic going,” he said.

Read more here: Donegal club to appeal eight-week ban for hosting charity tournament

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