Compensate clubs for AFL player drain, says former Kerry star Declan Quill

Former Kerry forward Declan Quill has called on the GAA to act on behalf of clubs who are losing players to AFL clubs.
Compensate clubs for AFL player drain, says former Kerry star Declan Quill

Quill, who saw his Kerins O’Rahillys club-mate Tommy Walsh sign for the Sydney Swans in late 2009 before he returned in December 2014, says Dingle should be financially compensated for the amount of time and effort put into the development of Mark O’Connor after he signed for Geelong this week.

The two-time All-Ireland winner has no issue with players who take up the opportunity of pursuing a professional career, but has a problem with Tadhg Kennelly’s involvement in draining talent from the county.

But Quill’s biggest difficulty is with the investment put into players only to lose them to Australia. “From the age of five or six years of age, Tommy Walsh was nurtured through the club. Out in Dingle, they would have done the same with Mark and now he is the latest to be taken to Australia after all the work has been done here.

“It’s harsh on the clubs. When Tommy left the club, I felt it should have been compensated. You could never refuse Tommy that opportunity. It was fantastic for him and I would have done the same if I was in his shoes but the club felt it.

“Maybe not compensation for the county – the likes of Kerry will always have strong players – but definitely the club deserves something. We lost him for five years. We missed him in a Munster club final (2009). You look back on your career and that was one of the medals that got away from us.

“Dingle might say the same thing about the county final last Sunday when Mark was over in Australia speaking to clubs.

“Fair play to him but the clubs that are nurturing this talent are the ones losing out.”

Attention has already turned to Fossa’s David Clifford who is currently in his Leaving Certificate year at St Brendan’s College in Killarney and will line out for Kerry’s minors again next season.

Quill remarked: “Is he going to be the next one? You have to ask yourself. He’s going to be a superstar and he would be an absolute loss to Fossa. There just doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for an Australia club to pilfer to best of our under-age talent. As regards compensation, putting a number out of the air say Geelong had to fork out €50,000 to Dingle for taking Mark. They might think twice about coming over if that was the case.

“It’s detrimental to the game in many ways. It’s very discouraging for a lot of people in Dingle who have put hours into Mark. No doubt they’re proud he’s a full-time athlete and like we did with Tommy they’ll follow his career closely in Australia, but they’ll be thinking if not saying what we were about Tommy – ‘God almighty, he’s going to be some loss’.”

Ciarán Kilkenny is the only Dublin player to have signed to an AFL deal only to come back but it’s tantamount to open season in Kerry, says Quill, after they claimed a third consecutive All-Ireland title last month.

He feels part of that is down to Kennelly’s role as an AFL international talent co-ordinator.

“Tadhg is a Kerryman with his ear to the ground. It’s easier for him to follow fellas’ progress in Kerry than other counties. He’s probably being informed by people in the county who can tell him who’s the next up-and-coming stars.

“This pilfering of the young players, there’s nothing to deter him from doing it. He’s well-tuned into what’s going on and it’s upsetting for fellas like myself who are involved in under-age. It can be quite disheartening when you see some of your best, young players leave.”

Quill can see coaches questioning their roles if they see their work spoiled. “If it continues, people will ask why should they bother. In Kerry, you get involved to nurture fellas to win county titles and All-Ireland medals. You can never blame the player – Tommy always said it was a great lifestyle over there – but the GAA must look at it from the club’s point of view and wonder are they getting a fair shake.” Then there’s the impact the AFL has on players who decide to come back to Gaelic football. “It depends on how long they spend over there. Tommy would admit himself he found it hard to get back into the swing of it. He was used to an oval ball for four or five years.

He was running with the ball for five or 10 metres so he suffered a small bit coming back. He might have thought it was going to be easy getting back into football but he was away from it for five years.

“I remember reading that Tadhg said we wouldn’t see the best of Tommy in 2015 and he was right. We were expecting miracles when we shouldn’t have been. It just didn’t happen for him but he pulled out of Kerry this year to concentrate on the club and he’s got loads of games, building up loads of confidence and he’s coming back to his best. It’s taken the bones of two years but that’s what it has taken.”

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