Higher Education GAA to appoint body to examine eligibility issues

Higher Education GAA to appoint body to examine eligibility issues

The GAA's Higher Education Council (Comhairle Ardoideachais) are continuing their battle with eligible issues that have dogged the sector in recent years.

News has come through that an independent committee will be established, within 10 days, to address concerns in this area.

New HE Chairman Ray O'Brien has outlined that he expects the committee to act swiftly in bringing back recommendations which will be put before an EGM next April.

"We are going to get them to bring a comprehensive report to us for early March. We will then circulate all of their findings to the clubs and get the clubs to respond and we will probably have a special EGM to look at bringing motions forward for next year's AGM," he said.

This year's AGM was held last month at the GAA Museum in Croke Park, and O'Brien feels that the discussion generated at that meeting will provide the basis for the direction which the independent committee will take.

"We brought motions to our AGM which I suppose brought a lot of discussion. We have taken a lot of what was discussed away with us and we are going to set up an independent committee to look at eligibilty (on that basis)."

Eligibility controversies have proved to be a constant thorn in the HE GAA committee over a long number of years.

In 2008, Garda College were thrown out of the Sigerson Cup for fielding ineligible player Graham Dillon of Westmeath.

Earlier this year, Tipperary midfielder Shane McGrath had received a proposed suspension from HE GAA authorities having been deemed ineligible when they played for Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, in the Ryan Cup.

The Central Appeals Committee (CAC) then upheld the original ruling by the HE GAA committee, following an appeal by Mary Immaculate. The prolonged nature of the process meant that it was subsequently decided by the HEC that any suspension would be meaningless.

Cork goalkeeper and UCC student Anthony Nash was also deemed ineligible to play for his college during the Fitzgibbon Cup and received a 12-week ban from colleges' games for doing so.

O'Brien feels that the sector is now moving away from controversy towards a focus on providing games for all.

"I suppose three or four years ago we did have a few really bad years," he said.

"But, in fairness, things have really tightened up and it's just I suppose a lot of it was a lack of understanding of the rules.

"Now we have more and more full-time GPOs (Games Promotion Officers) in the colleges so they know what to do. Our rules have got more complicated I suppose. They do now know what constitutes eligible and ineligible which has helped an awful lot.

"Thankfully we have had a few good years recently. I suppose there were bad times, but hopefully now we are moving forward. We don't just want to concentrate on that, that is not what we are about.

"We are about promoting the game, so we want to move away from the whole area of eligibility and move to getting games for everyone and increasing our numbers."

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