Managers urged to get squad balance right

SEAN KELLY wants inter-county managers to adopt a sensible approach on the use of “fringe” players in their squads.

The GAA president was speaking at the Bank of Ireland sponsorship launch in Dublin yesterday, where he also made it clear the GAA would play their part if and when an application is received from either the FAI or the IRFU to play a game in Croke Park. They will be reasonable in dealing with any such application, he said.

“If games are not played in Croke Park, it will not be the GAA who will be the cause of stopping them.’’

Regarding inter-county panels, Mr. Kelly made it clear that he favoured the extension of senior panels to 30 for the coming season. Reducing them to 24 at last year’s Congress had sent out the “wrong signal” to players.

Mr Kelly said the association has been “very fortunate” with the calibre of managers who operated at the highest level but he did have a concern where players in extended panels ended up playing no football, either with their inter-county team or with their club.

“This is a bone of contention, particularly with clubs,’’ he commented. “I know this can be difficult for managers to operate, but I would ask them to try and achieve a balance.”

Pointing out that he had plans for a club forum to be held in October - where every single club would be invited to send a representative - Mr Kelly said they would be taking a “very close look” at fixtures. And, based on the experiences of the coming season, he would be expecting a lot of feedback on the issue.

Mr Kelly reported on a meeting he had with inter-county referees on Tuesday night, saying that he had asked them to be “severe” in dealing with off-the-ball incidents and third-man tackling.

“We don’t have a lot of it, but it’s something we don’t want in our game. It needs to be addressed and I want to see referees and umpires being vigilant.’’

He also expressed concern about the over-use of the handpass in Gaelic football, commenting that some people felt it was ‘destroying the game.’ By way of example, he quoted statistics from this season’s Sigerson Cup final where 353 handpasses were used while the ball was kicked 170 times.

Referring to the recent Congress, he said that but for him ruling that it would need a two-thirds majority to change the relevant motion, a proposal to re-introduce the fisted pass would have been accepted.

The launch of the championship marked the 12th year of the Bank of Ireland’s involvement and Mr Kelly said it was gratifying to see the competition go from “strength to strength” every year in terms of popularity of the sport and counties that are emerging as serious contenders for the title.

Des Crowley, CEO Retail Financial Services Ireland, represented Bank of Ireland at the launch.

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