Monday 23 October 2017

Rules are wrong if blameless kids suffer

'It is not uncommon in underage sport, where children often lose out because of technicalities which are really the responsibility of adults.'
'It is not uncommon in underage sport, where children often lose out because of technicalities which are really the responsibility of adults.'

John Greene, Seán Ryan and Pat Coffey

The plight of Galway's under 14 girls' football team, who qualified for the All-Ireland final but were thrown out of the competition because there had been an issue with one player's registration, was featured in the Sunday Independent last week.

Sadly, it is not uncommon in underage sport, where children often lose out because of technicalities which are really the responsibility of adults. The point was made that sporting organisations need to change their rules so that the punishment fits the crime.

Another sad tale reached us last week, this time from the Community Games. Again, an issue with the registration of players was at the heart of the problem, and again the consequences were severe.

In this case, the team management of St Pat's under 12 soccer team from Cavan had correctly registered all their players, but in the days building up to their Ulster semi-final an issue arose over three members of the team, and on the day they were not allowed to play. The three children sat in tears and watched as their team lost.

St Pat's have complained bitterly, at provincial and national level. They say that the error was not at their end, and that has been acknowledged, but the rule regarding registration is binding, regardless of where the fault lies.

And this is the point: these rules around registration in sport are so absolute that there appears to be no flexibility to mitigate. It must be acknowledged that the rules are essential for good governance in the first instance, but also for practical reasons such as insurance and making sure children are played in their correct age group.

But if a problem arises, and it can be established that the organisation and not the team is at fault, there is no scope to take that into account. So you end up with children crying not because they lost a game - which is something they absorb and learn is part and parcel of sport - but because they weren't even allowed play, which should not be part of sport.

St Pat's have asked Community Games for fair play. They say this is an organisation built on the spirit of goodwill and on teaching the correct values to children, and ask what has this taught their under 12 boys?

It's a reasonable question to ask.

* * * * *

AT the close of business on Friday at the end of what was, officially, the first week of the transfer window in England, five members of the Republic of Ireland squad had found new clubs. Disconcertingly, only one of the moves could be safely described as upwardly mobile.

Winger James McClean escaped from Wigan Athletic, relegated to League One, to resume his Premier League career with West Brom. However, midfielder Stephen Quinn and defender Paul McShane have both left the Premier League to play for Championship club Reading.

Goalkeeper Darren Randolph, whose international career has stalled since Shay Given came out of retirement, went from Championship side Birmingham City to Premier League West Ham. He moves from first-choice to goalkeeper-in-waiting to last season's regular, Spaniard Adrian. However, there is a glimmer of hope - he was handed the No 1 jersey for Thursday's 3-0 Europa League win over Lusitanos.

* * * * *

Hitting six sixes in a single over is probably every batsman's greatest dream in cricket - and every bowler's worst nightmare. You think of Garfield Sobers in 1968, but you also remember the hapless bowler Malcolm Nash.

Spare a thought then for Clontarf's Connor D'Arcy, who was at the receiving end of Ruan Pretorious last Sunday when the South African hit a remarkable six sixes off D'Arcy's over. Pretorious went on to make 101 not out from just 49 deliveries at Castle Avenue as Waringstown beat Clontarf in the Irish Senior Cup.

The statisticians say it is the first time the feat was ever accomplished in an Irish Cup match, but it almost happened at the same ground in 1993 when Allan Border hit five consecutive sixes only to mistime the last ball for just two runs in the friendly international between Ireland and Australia. The assembled Australian media seemed more interested in chasing down the Irish bowler, Angus Dunlop, than talking to the big-hitting Aussie. Life can be cruel.

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