By Pierce O’Reilly
Senior New York GAA delegates are concerned with the lack of players at present visiting the Big Apple and may be forced to reduce the number of teams in the near future.
At last week’s GAA meeting at the Landsdowne Bar to discuss the structure for the upcoming championship, chairperson John O’Riordan said that he never saw a worse player drought in New York. Most teams are struggling to gather their troops for preseason training and one delegate even suggested reducing the number of players from 15 to 13 for a trial period.
"I remember things being tight in the ’70s," O’Riordan said, "but things are very bad right now. The one positive thing, however, is that the clubs that weathered the storm back then are even stronger now, and that gives hope to us all."
Proposals regarding the senior division layout will be discussed again Feb 22, but it appears at this early stage that the status quo from last year will still be in place. Monaghan, who finished at the bottom of the A Division, look certain for the drop to Div. 2, with "B" champions Rockland moving up to dance with the big boys.
In Senior B, Celtic, who failed to acquire a solitary point last year, will be heading to the junior ranks, with Rangers moving up to replace them.
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Sligo delegate Paul Tuffy confirmed that the Yeats county team would remain a senior squad, but that it would be left to the players to decide in which division.
Celtic GFC have requested that the New York board of directors review the rules regarding player transfers so that players good enough to play senior football are not deprived the chance to play in the top grade. At present, the rule states that clubs relegated to junior must play at this grade for at least one year before their players are allowed to move among divisions.
"If the GAA don’t change this rule, then the future of our club is in doubt," Celtic’s chairman, Donie O’Sullivan, told the Echo. "We have about six players capable of playing senior football, and if they aren’t allowed to play at the top level, they’ll find it hard to stay with our club."
GAA president Monty Maloney said that he didn’t like to see any club folding or being relegated, but that the rules still had to be followed and no exceptions could be made for one club ahead of another.
"We’ll look at the matter later in the month and see if there are grounds for change," he said.
The two new Junior B clubs, Galway and Derry, must have their list of players in order for affiliation this Thursday night.
The GAA convention is set for Thursday, Feb 22.
The Senior A Division will more than likely comprise Donegal, Kerry, Tyrone, Stamford, Leitrim, Cavan, Westmeath, Rockland and Sligo. The Senior B Division is likely to include Offaly, Monaghan, Clare, Longford, Mayo, Rangers, Roscommon and Cork.
Buckley no rebel
Kildare star Niall Buckley has stated that rumors suggesting he’s heading home to line out for Cork and Larry Tompkins are unfounded. He said that nobody contacted him while at home for Christmas and wondered how such rumors surfaced. The Lilywhites star is set to play for St. Brendan’s in Chicago again this summer and, barring unforeseen circumstances, will remain there for the near future, he said.
Speculation in Ireland earlier this week suggested that Buckley could be about to follow the same path taken by Tompkins and Shea Fahy in 1987 and become a Cork player. Kildare supporters have been clinging onto the hope that Buckley will return later in the year for championship action and assist the Lilywhites in their quest for All-Ireland glory.
Fancy a few dollars
There are still a few months before a ball is kicked in the All-Ireland football championship, yet many punters around town are eager to get the best odds early.
I’m sure New York manager Paddy Kearney will lose little sleep when he hears that his side are at 2,000-1 to win the coveted Sam Maguire trophy. Ladbrokes Bookies have the U.S. exiles in the same boat as London at the outragous odds.
The full list is as follows: Kerry 7-2, Galway 9-2, Meath 6-1, Derry 9-1, Kildare, Dublin and Armagh 10-1, Tyrone, Mayo 12-1, Offaly 20-1, Donegal 20-1, Down 25-1, Roscommon, Sligo 33-1, Cavan, Clare 40-1, Fermanagh 80-1, Westmeath, Laois, Louth 100-1, Monaghan, Leitrim 150-1, Antrim 200-1,Tipperary 300-1, Limerick, Wicklow 500-1, Carlow, Longford, Wexford 1,000-1.
A list of intercounty stars are in line for the Aer Lingus transatlantic flight later this month as player-starved New York managers scour the country in an attempt to stay afloat for the upcoming championship.
Reliable sources have confirmed that a Meath senior footballer will be among the travelers and may land at JFK in the next few days. It’s also reported this week that Niall Buckley may not be the only Lilywhites player to visit the U.S. this summer. Corner forward Padraig Craven is reported to be interested in joining several clubs in the Big Apple.
Finally, rumor has it that Cork supporters are trying desperately to hold onto one of their most prolific scorers and deter his long-term holiday plans later next month.