In the week that the GAA confirmed former Derry player Anthony Tohill as manager of the Ireland team for the Compromise Rules, it has emerged that AFL chief Andrew Demetriou wrote a letter to Aussie Rules players, coaches and administrators about players from other codes joining the AFL.
Though Demetriou was referring specifically to the case of rugby league stars Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau playing Aussie Rules, he also referred by name to GAA players who have opted for the oval ball down under.
“In recent weeks there has been considerable debate about the merit or otherwise of recruiting players from other codes,” said Demetriou.
“We have no problem with the debate but the reality is that it has been happening for years, as the following list of players recruited from other codes indicates: Jim Stynes, Gaelic football; Sean Wight, Gaelic football; Tadhg Kennelly, Gaelic football; Marty Clarke, Gaelic football.”
Demetriou goes on to outline the AFL’s position on recruiting from other sports: “Our view is that first-choice athletes from other codes should be encouraged to try our game and pursue an AFL career.
“With two new clubs, growing the talent pool is critical and attracting first-choice athletes from other codes is essential in assisting us to grow the overall pool.”
The revelation will provide ammunition for GAA members opposed to the Compromise Rules games on the basis that it offers Aussie Rules scouts a shop window when it comes to Irish players. Prominent coaches such as Tyrone’s Mickey Harte have been vocal in their opposition the hybrid game.
“It’s time for the GAA to focus on our own game,” said Harte in 2007. “Get the Railway Cup back in that slot where that hybrid game, which I have no time for, used to happen.
“We in the GAA should be doing nothing to encourage that. We should be encouraging people that Gaelic games is the one to play and if people do decide, of their own volition, to go elsewhere, that’s fine.”