By John Markey
For the first time in many years, the weather was to account for a Sunday schedule at Gaelic Park. The incessant rains had left the Bronx surface unplayable and Gaels were left to ponder an alternative to their Sunday’s activities. It will now leave the schedule committee with a headache of how and when, and indeed, where, the games will take place.
It should be decided at Thursday evening’s weekly meeting, but, sure to raise a debate, it will be overshadowed by more significant happenings.
Club delegates likely to be there in force include Cavan, Rockland and the clubs from Ulster, in particular the North.
Last week Cavan’s chances of success received a major blow. The allegations that they had fielded several Boston based players in their last outing with Roscommon proved to be true and the new regime headed by Monty Maloney duly took action.
Cavan’s manager, Mickey O’Reilly, will take no further action in his club’s fortunes for one year. Likewise, selectors Padraig O’Reilly and Alan McInerney were also delivered one-year suspensions, but more important, the three players who showed a blatant disregard for the ruling and had no qualms in breaching it face 12 months inactivity. Gary Woods, Seamus Mullen and Stephen Gallaghly face a long lay off with the season only weeks old. But they have only themselves to blame with the ruling concerning NAB participation laid down in no uncertain terms.
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Just how the Cavan club will recover from this setback remains to be seen and if the playoffs were their target, they certainly have now an uphill struggle on their hands. Not only were they hit on the playing front, but also financially, with their gate money to be withheld for the year.
However, Cavan are not the only side to have been dealt a major body blow. Rockland were the first team to be affected. Their two points were subsequently deducted following their comfortable victory over Dublin. This controversy surrounds the legality of John Fitzpatrick, who by all purposes never transferred from Kerry to Rockland, rendering him illegal. The same penalties were imposed, and with one game having elapsed, they find themselves pointless.
But the crux of the debate this week is sure to be New York’s discussion on the controversial Rule 21. This week will witness Croke Park hosting a special sitting on the ruling. With the recent breakthrough in the peace talks rumor has it that the GAA hierarchy has come under increased pressure to have Rule 21 deleted by major players in the Irish government. Rule 21 excludes all members of the British security forces from participating in Gaelic sports. The rule has been in effect for many years but has only come to prominence in the last several. In this politically correct environment now is seen as the right time for the restructuring or deleting of the rule, and of course, should this be so, it would be seen as a major coup on behalf of the Irish delegation in the peace process.
But who should decide if this rule should be deleted? Surely New York shouldn’t have the power to influence the decision, nor should the NACB, nor indeed should anybody but the six counties be directly involved. Just what interpretation Gaels will have remains to be seen, but all one has to do is have a quick word with someone from Northern Ireland who has played or who has been part of a Gaelic football or hurling club and ask them about the rule. Ask Gaels in Crossmaglen? How did the McAnespies club come about in Boston?
A lengthy debate is expected with the outcome subject to a lot of speculation.