Speaking at the launch of ‘The Cups That Cheered’ at UCC, Dónal pp said that, while he believed the association did much to cater for third-level competitions, appeals regarding eligibility served to undermine them.
“The first thing I will say is that, at central level, they are very generous,” he said, “student sport is not always so well-funded by other bodies.
“A downside is, too many eligibility decisions are overturned on spurious grounds by committees, purely because there is a desire to get guys off because they are county players.
“When that happens, it undermines the whole eligibility and people wonder why there are so many questions about so many players.
“Central appeals committees need to understand that, when they make a decision to let a guy off, it ripples far wider. If you don’t have strict eligibility rules in this sector you have nothing, because you have to have demarcation lines.”
McAnallen, a brother of the late Tyrone captain Cormac, was aware of the importance UCC has played in the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson, and he revealed this has been so since the very early days of the GAA, when the college was loyal to the British Empire.
“Three Queen’s College, Cork medical students were at the second meeting of the GAA and one of them, WJM Barry, a world-famous athlete, was elected president, so it was a very important site in the early days of the GAA, even if it didn’t really come in fully under the GAA’s aegis.
“The story of Gaelic games in UCC is very much reflective of the GAA’s own bigger narrative.”
During his speech, however, McAnallen pointed out that UCC’s record tally of 41 Fitzgibbon titles should probably be revised downwards, as there is a question-mark with regard to the 1940 competition.
There had been uncertainty over Dr Jim Young’s eligibility but in those days decisions on such matters were not revealed to the press. An article previewing the following year’s cup stated that it was without a holder, though.
Such vignettes serve to illustrate the charm of the competitions, and McAnallen points to the absent lid of the Fitzgibbon Cup trophy as another example.
“It went missing in 1973, when Maynooth won it. The photograph of the last day of the lid is in the book, you wouldn’t have thought that the priests would lose it! It’ll be 40 years lost next year.”
“I wanted to try to capture that it’s not just about who wins, the memories people have of the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups are about the camaraderie and the high-jinks between players, the hotels that were wrecked, the songs.”