O’Neill: Exiles don’t need helping hand

GAA president Liam O’Neill has defended the rule which prevented London from playing two challenge matches in Ireland recently, saying that the county’s success against Sligo in the Connacht SFC shows that they do not need special treatment anymore.

London recorded a first Connacht win since 1977 against Sligo on Sunday, though in the latter stages Sligo came back, as London wilted.

The Exiles had not played since their final league game on April 7, having been denied the chance to play Wicklow and Louth because of a rule which bans training weekends outside a 13-day period prior to a game. In O’Neill’s view, the application of the rule shows London respect.

“The rule was being applied, that’s all,” he said. “I think, in fairness to London, they have now shown that they are equal to others and that they don’t deserve to be patronised by having rules relaxed for them.

“They’re able to take part now and beat a Connacht county. The rule was applied fairly to them and I think they were given the respect they deserved.

“Not to have applied a rule to them would have been disrespectful, because it would be suggesting that they were less than other counties. They have proven themselves that they are level, so now let’s move ahead.”

London’s win was the big upset on a weekend where Cork and Kerry recorded 18 and 17-point Munster SFC wins over Limerick and Tipperary respectively.

O’Neill, speaking at the launch of the book A Celebration of Gaelic Games in Muskerry in Ballincollig, Co. Cork last night, does not foresee those results as catalysts for changing the championship structure.

“That’s the system, that’s what we voted for, that’s democracy,” he said.

“Until somebody comes up with a suggestion to change that, that’s the way it’s going to be.

“Everyone loves an upset, in all sports. If games were decided by committees, the strong teams would win all the time.

“I think London struck a blow on Sunday for all underdogs.”

Former Sligo player Eamonn O’Hara was strident in his criticism of county manager Kevin Walsh on The Sunday Game. O’Neill, when asked about the frequency of such comments on the programme, expressed hope that analysts would reflect before venting.

“I’d prefer if people thought for a little while [before talking],” he said.

“There’s a rule in the German army, if you want to make a big statement or a complaint then you have to wait 24 hours. It’s probably not a bad rule.”

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