Most Kerry clubs back Central Council right to decide on Croke Park

TWO THIRDS of the clubs in Kerry are in favour of the GAA's Central Council being given the right to decide whether to allow rugby or soccer to be played in Croke Park.

Notably, there was only one objection to a motion to this effect adopted at the annual convention and it came in the form of a passionate defence of the existing policy from Liam Cotter, a member of the County Board Executive. He argued it would be tantamount to a betrayal of all the Association stood for to allow other sports "into their show house".

Club chairman Paddy Mulvihill formally moved the motion from the Moyvane club, to the effect that Croke Park (only) could be used for other purposes sanctioned by Central Council "from time to time". He stressed that only the Central Council could so decide, saying they would not tolerate a situation where the Management Committee "would dictate policy to the grassroots". The stadium was a major asset and should be used for the benefit of the Association, he added.

With no other speaker, county board chairman Sean Walsh was about to call for a vote when Mr Cotter, the board's cultural officer, intervened.

He made it clear he was opposed to Croke Park being used "for any other code bar Gaelic games," adding he had heard nobody but their own people ask for the stadium to be opened up to the other sports.

Such sports were in competition with the GAA to get the youth of the country "over to their side" and he had no doubt if Croke Park were to be opened up, the policy would extend "down the road" to other major grounds in Thurles, Limerick, Killarney and Cork.

He also criticised one club (which he didn't identify) for "not having the guts" to speak out. This club had "created a monster" by allowing other clubs to use their facilities. Changing the policy would "split" communities. The GAA's priority should be to promote their own games and not to hand over their show house.

"I don't want to hear anybody crying in a few years about the harm that other codes will be doing, when we'll have created the monster ourselves.''

Michael O'Donoghue (Valentia) reasoned that any survey of a cross-section of members would show most in favour of opening up Croke Park. He said Croke Park was an asset that should be maximised, recognising the economic reality of the situation. He said he wouldn't envisage anybody thinking less of the Association if other sports were allowed there.

Responding, Paddy Mulvihill emphasised that the motion referred only to Croke Park. The GAA had taken major decisions such as allowing sponsorship of the championships and removing Rule 21 (which banned police and members of the British armed forces from membership). Now, the Association had an opportunity to show how modern it was.

On a show of hands the motion was passed.

There was a lively debate on another Moyvane motion, proposing a re-structuring of the county championship, which would debar divisional teams and one from Austin Stacks which called for it to be reviewed.

Paddy Mulvihill said it was "a bad year" to oppose the involvement of divisional teams after South Kerry's achievement in winning the championship, but he felt it was time to change the structure. Tom Brennan (Desmonds) warned delegates to be wary, saying the last review "got rid" of Legions and Desmonds and another top team was going to "fall by the wayside" (in the upcoming relegation game between Austin Stacks and John Mitchels). It was decided to carry out a review of the championship.

* Delegates supported a John Mitchels proposal to make gumshields mandatory in both codes up to minor grade and a Cromane motion calling for the introduction of a (10-minute) sin bin for players receiving two yellow cards. There was strong opposition to a Dr Crokes recommendation to play county football finals in Tralee and Killarney on alternate years.

Ger Hickey (Austin Stacks) said Austin Stack Park was the "county ground" and Tralee was the county town. Killarney got its "fair share" of Munster championship games and it wasn't too much to ask that the premier final be played in Tralee.

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