Thursday 16 August 2018

There's no need to fear venue rule change

Páirc Uí Chaoimh remains out of bounds. Photo: Sportsfile
Páirc Uí Chaoimh remains out of bounds. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Theory and practice collided yesterday and, almost inevitably, theory was left blackened and bedraggled.

The GAA's Rule 5.1 portfolio serves the purpose of safeguarding the use of its pitches, halls and space for GAA use only.

The theory is that GAA space is for GAA use only and that any deviation from that to accommodate rival sports would only seek to promote those sports in a very competitive field.

It doesn't sit well with everyone naturally but like one of those signs behind the counter of a shop urging customers not to ask for credit as refusal often offends, a blanket ban for units and clubs takes care of all of that.

In most cases, GAA clubs are under so much pressure to house their own teams, especially with the exponential growth of ladies football, that rarely if ever do requests arise anyway, though a Longford club were sanctioned two years ago for running a Jamie Carragher summer soccer school.

But sometimes there are exceptional cases and the request by the organisers of a benefit match for the family of the late Liam Miller, former-Ireland international and Celtic and Manchester United soccer player, was just that.

Seeking to shift the game, to be played on September 25, to a bigger venue in Cork city, there was only one obvious choice. But Páirc Uí Chaoimh remains out of bounds because of the above rule.

One of the terms of Rule 5.1(a) is to allow use of property-grounds that is not in conflict with the Aims and Objects of the Association. Can it really be argued that a one-off benefit match for a sadly deceased soccer player's family is really "in conflict" with the GAA's Aims and Objects?

Rule 5.1(b) debars horseracing, greyhound racing and "field games other than those sanctioned by Central Council" but it's a provision that has irony.

Exceptions are made for Croke Park and the 2023 Rugby World Cup while American Football games have taken place at grounds away from Croke Park too.

Noel Walsh, one-time Munster Council chairman and GAA presidential candidate, is a veteran of many battles to open Croke Park initially and then other county grounds for events like the Liam Miller benefit match.

Just as he maintained during the long and sometimes bitter debate over the opening of Croke Park for the first five years of the last decade, Walsh says there is nothing to fear now about opening county grounds, something he has unsuccessfully lobbied for in recent years, most recently in 2016 when his motion garnered just 23pc support.

"It's unjustified. What's the reason for it, for not allowing it to happen?" he asked.

"The majority of the players who play in those grounds and the people who pay to go into them would favour it," he claimed. "It wouldn't be abused with local soccer clubs (wanting use of grounds). That wasn't going to happen. It's a pity it's being highlighted like this."

Those GAA members, among them many ex-players who were vocal on the issue now have the option, if they feel strongly enough, to submit relevant motions to their clubs and ensure that, on their patch, there is sufficient support.

That's how Croke Park was eventually opened and how this rule will change again if the will is there.

Irish Independent

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