WELL, we are two days out from the start of the National League in 2023 and ideally I should be looking at some of the interesting ties ahead with all of the Ulster countries well placed in their respective divisions to be ultra-competitive but unfortunately that is not the major talking point of the GAA this week.
At the time of writing this, the full situation of the fiasco from the Glen versus Kilmacud Crokes situation is still unfolding.
We have seen the statement from Glen on Monday evening whereby they have noted their disappointment at the GAA hierarchy in saying they will not take action against Kilmacud for illegally playing 16 players for 90 seconds unless Glen formally lodge an appeal.
This was after Glen sought clarification early on Monday morning, probably in a more informal fashion than a formally lodged appeal.
It seems that this decision has not gone down well with the GAA fraternity in Ireland as a whole. I do realise that my social media followers and algorithms are all linked, but the vast majority of people seem to be of the opinion that: (a) the GAA should not have put Glen in this position and (b) that Glen should force the GAA’s hand, lodge an official complaint and let the GAA make the final call on it.
I don’t see too many saying that this would be sour grapes from Glen. One of the most articulate commentators on this and someone who has cut out the emotion is our very own Joe Brolly. Joe has good friends in the Glen club and some might say he has a vested interest as this is a Derry club. However he made it quite clear and down the line, calling out the factual rules and factual options open to the GAA to remedy this.
The rules are the rules and they have been broken, there is no disputing this. It might sound extreme, but with Derry playing Limerick on Saturday. Picture the scene where Derry are two points up in the dying minutes. What if there are subs warming up along the sideline and one slips onto the pitch either in a break of play or simply unnoticed and plays a spare man in defence like a sweeper, never touching the ball but scanning space back and forth and Derry see the game out, what is the fallout from it.
Is it a case of the GAA saying, ‘well we won’t take any action unless we receive a formal complaint from Limerick’? These are games on the national stage with copious amounts of officials. What happens in a club game on Saturday evening with one official – it would be a lot easier to fire a man onto the pitch especially in a frantic game.
Another part of the wider argument is the fact that a small club has been left to make this decision. Realistically, club committees are 10 to 12 people locally who help out and with the best will in the world, it is usually what is termed the executive members of the committee who make most of the decisions, the chairman, secretary and treasurer.
In local areas like this, this decision has the ability to cause fractions which will last generations. Between the committee, players and management it is highly unlikely everyone will form the same opinion. We are dealing with people who are family and work colleagues. Then fire in ordinary club members who will have a strong opinion on it. It is a terrible position to put on local members.
I would usually be a strong defender of the GAA and for all it does in communities throughout Ireland. In this column over the years I have vehemently backed them against criticism and as my father has vast experience in the GAA hierarchy at local, county and national level.
I have a fair idea as to the inner workings of the GAA and how these decisions play out but at some level, those at the top of the GAA, very well paid professionals have to show leadership and come out and get ahead of situations like this but in this instance it has come too far.
There should also be some humility shown by Kilmacud Crokes. At the time of writing, it maybe looks like a replay might be in the offing if Glen were to appeal. So basically Kilmacud are sitting waiting on Glen making their decision and if they do appeal a replay will most likely be fixed. They should also come out and get ahead of it, acknowledge their part in the wrongdoing and offer a replay and leave it up to Glen to decide if they will participate.
Its not as if Kilmacud did not realise they had an extra man in the pitch, I would not buy into the notion that they did not realise. The whole mechanics of a substitution is that one man goes on and another goes off. I know Croke Park is bigger and harder to communicate but is the onus on the man who ran on to communicate to the man going off (number 14 in this case) that he must leave the field of play. Whatever way it is, it is obvious that no one came off the pitch when a man went on, this is basic numbers.
All in all, it is a situation which no one wants to find themselves in but I would say that in 20 plus years’ time, whenever the ultimate destination of the Andy Merrigan lies, nobody within the winning camp will care or see it as tainted as long as the medal is secured. Oh, and it also gives another reason for a Monday club over the next few weeks.