British Army GAA team debate: ‘Croke Park have more or less told London to cop themselves on’

British Army GAA team debate: ‘Croke Park have more or less told London to cop themselves on’

By Robert Mulhern

London GAA insiders say they expect Croke Park to take full ownership of the controversial proposal to throw a British Army GAA team from the county junior football championship.

A source close to the London County Board said that many club members in Britain were "horrified" by Granuaile hurling club’s proposal to "rescind" the September decision to allow The Irish Guards compete in 2016.

The proposal was scheduled to be put to the city’s clubs at last Monday’s county board meeting in Ruislip.

But after news of the motion made headlines and sparked considerable debate on social media, GAA headquarters moved against London, directing that the issue to be removed from Monday’s agenda.

In a statement Croke Park said they had “procedural issues” with the proposal and instructed that Central Council would deal with the issue this weekend.

Significantly, Monday’s county board meeting was the first under new chairman and Granuaile stalwart, John Lacey.

“Let’s hope this is the end of it now,” said one long serving London insider. “A lot of Gaels here were horrified that it came up at all. It’s a very bad start to the new chairman’s tenure that he was told what to do by Croke Park at his very first meeting.

“Croke Park have more or less told London to cop themselves on.”

The move to allow The Irish Guards participate into the county’s junior championship was passed in September by then chairman Noel O’Sullivan’s deciding ballot after delegates had returned a tied 15-15 vote.

The Irish Guards team are set to play under the name Gardai Eireannach.

The squad includes players from the four provinces as well as others born outside Ireland and the UK.

The Granuaile club would not disclose the reasons behind their proposal and the London insider said some efforts were now being made to present the reasons as "practical rather than political" among administrators.

“London have gotten a slap on the knuckles,” he said.

This week GAA president Aogán O Fearghail was keen to highlight wider consequences of the proposal.

“It's nothing to do with one club, it's all clubs,” he said. “We've close to 2,000 clubs. If we accept a club into our association. Having done that, then it shouldn't be so simple to just remove them.”

In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster this week, Noel O’Sullivan, John Lacey’s predecessor as London County Board Chairman expressed his disgust at the decision.

“I don’t think that vote was a true reflection of the feelings on the ground in London,” added the source. “Most fellas who come over here just want to join a club and play, they’re not really interested in politics.”

But another long serving London GAA member said certain clubs were now mindful of taking a public side on the debate because they were conscious that some of their members may support Granuaile’s proposal.

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