Saturday 16 November 2019

IRFU are forced to sweat for €250k aid

Botched paperwork could cost the IRFU €250k
Botched paperwork could cost the IRFU €250k

John Greene, Fergus McDonnell and Marie Crowe

If it didn't know before, the IRFU certainly knows now the importance of deadlines after missing one almost cost the union a cool quarter of a million euro.

Having been allocated a capital sports grant in 2012 of €257,517 to pay for 5,000 rugby balls, equipment packs for 500 schools, training equipment for regional development squads and other bits and bobs, the IRFU was given until December 6, 2012 to purchase all the gear and furnish the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport with the required documentation, including invoices and tax clearance certificates.

Having paid for the equipment out of its own funds, the union then submitted the paperwork to recoup the full €257,517. However, not alone did they miss the deadline, but it then transpired that some documents did not "satisfy the terms and conditions of the programme". The IRFU said the paperwork was submitted on December 17, 2012 but in a letter from the Department to the Union in July last year, an official said: "I note in your letter that the original documentation was sent to the Department on the 17th December 2012, unfortunately this never reached us."

And then: "Unfortunately as the required documents were not received before the drawdown date it will not be possible to make a payment in relation to this grant." Clubs who have been late in applying for a sports capital grant will know how that feels.

Anyway, this prompted a letter from chief executive Philip Browne to minister Leo Varadkar, lamenting the "punitive situation" and urging him to reconsider. And all's well that ends well. The IRFU were made to sweat a little, but the money was finally paid over last December.

* * * * *

DUBLIN has always been the chip of choice for any self-respecting Meath shoulder, but rarely has there been a storm in a teacup quite like the controversy whipped up over the venue for the Leinster under 21 football final.

The Leinster Council fixed the game for Portlaoise but things turned ugly when Dublin declined Meath's offer to toss for home venue and also replied 'thanks, but no' to Meath's offer to play in Parnell Park.

This second suggestion has been described by our own Colm O'Rourke as 'a noble gesture' and while there have been many gestures exchanged before, during and after Meath-Dublin games, they involve varying numbers of fingers and could hardly be considered noble.

Meath County Board chairman Conor Tormey's suggestion that Dublin are "afraid to play in their own ground" was an interesting variation on the more popular Dublin-won't-play-outside-Croke-Park charge, but there you are – damned if they do and damned if they don't.

You might think that Meath would be delighted to get Dublin down to Portlaoise anyway, given that most Dubs develop a nosebleed once they pass Newlands Cross. That is the way to Portlaoise, isn't it?

* * * * *

The flogging and overtraining of amateur inter-county footballers and hurlers has long been a topic of discussion and debate.

Especially after a team comes from nowhere and wins an All-Ireland like Clare did in the 1990s. Hill runs in Shannon supervised by Mike McNamara and Ger Loughnane were largely credited with that particular team's success. Mick O'Dwyer was known for his endless laps and for Pat Gilroy and Dublin it was two sessions a day – before and after work.

World-renowned strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle gave a talk on coaching at the National Athlete Development Academy (NADA), at the invitation of Irish Sports Coaches Institute, and the room was filled with Ireland's top coaching professionals.

But what was most interesting about the seminar was the well-known faces who were in attendance to hear what the expert had to say. The S&C coaches of both All-Ireland-winning teams were in attendance, Clare's Joe O'Connor and Dublin's Martin Kennedy; indeed most of the top performing counties in both hurling and football had representatives at the seminar.

So it appears that the next step for Gaelic games training is education and regulation and with that comes professional coaches. The new question is how long will it take for the GAA to cop on to this?

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