New GAA law leaves London reeling

New GAA law leaves London reeling

The London footballers have been left reeling by the news that a new GAA law could rob them of 12 players for their Connacht SFC clash with Leitrim.

The law, which was passed at GAA Congress last month, rules that a player cannot play for a county team unless they have played in that county's club Championship either in the year in question or in the previous year.

As it currently stands, the new ruling leaves 12 members of the London senior football panel unable to play in the June 3 encounter with Leitrim, including their captain Sean McVeigh.

This is because the London club Championship is not scheduled to get underway until July at present.

Foreign-based teams like London and New York rely on emigrating players from Ireland and those working overseas to form large chunks of their respective squads. With a number of them emigrating in the summer months, they often play inter-county football before playing in the local club Championship.

The London County Board will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow night where they will ask the clubs to agree to staging a round of club Championship matches over the weekend of May 19-20, thus allowing McVeigh and company to be eligible to face Leitrim.

Another avenue London officials are looking at is a second appeal of the ruling after having an initial one rejected recently.

It is understood that a number of London clubs might not be able to field teams if the games were rescheduled for three weeks' time, as their preparations are at an early stage - given the original July start date - and players, both old and new, have yet to sign up for the summer.

The new law has become known as the 'Seanie Johnston rule' after the former Cavan forward's protracted transfer request to switch to a club in Kildare.

Ex-Antrim player McVeigh lined out for London during the recent Allianz League along with his other 11 team-mates who are under threat.

You only have to look back 11 months to see what McVeigh and the Exiles add to the Championship - they took recent Division 1 finalists Mayo to extra-time in the Connacht Championship and beat Fermanagh in the All-Ireland qualifiers to record their first Championship win since 1977.

“It’s a pity this could affect us just as we are starting to make progress,” a frustrated McVeigh told the Irish Daily Star.

“A lot of us are annoyed. I don’t think overseas football has been even looked at. There’s no compassion for us or compassion for people over in London.

“We all played league no problem, but four and five weeks before the Championship we are told it’s all for nothing at the minute."

He added: "We are going to tell the boys we just have to forget about this, train on as if nothing is happening, get prepared for Leitrim on June 3 and think positive because it could change.

“I’d be pretty positive that by this time next year they’ll have scrapped the rule because they’ll realise how stupid it is.”

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