Mother brands Kerry board's decision 'disgraceful'

The mother of two young footballers at the centre of a 'Parish rule' row stormed out of a Kerry County Committee meeting last night before votes on the matter were counted.

The mother of two young footballers at the centre of a 'Parish rule' row stormed out of a Kerry County Committee meeting last night before votes on the matter were counted.

Christina O'Sullivan's sons Colin and Pádraic, aged 8 and 14 respectively, want to play football for Listry GAA Club, which is located just over a mile away from their home in Ballytransna, Faha, Killarney.

They live in the parish of Firies and under the current ruling, they have been told by Kerry officials that they must play for the Firies club because it is their parish club.

This is despite the fact the the Firies club is some 11 kilometres away from their house.

The Parish rule in Kerry, which has some stated exceptions, is covered by Bye Law 20 (1) which declares that "a player may only play with a club in the parish as defined in Rule 6 (2) of the official guide."

Derogation was granted by the Kerry County Committee in a 1999 case involving brothers and notably the same two clubs, Listry and Firies. When the matter was passed back from the High Court to Kerry officials, they allowed the brothers to play for Listry, the club outside their parish.

With the current dispute, the boys' parents Christina and Michael O'Sullivan have also taken the case to the High Court. There was a settlement last week which agreed that a new vote would be taken at the meeting of the Kerry County Committee.

Last night the delegates voted 59-23 to refuse the O'Sullivan brothers a derogation from the Parish rule that would permit them to play for Listry instead of Firies.

This is the second such vote by the Kerry County Committee on the O'Sullivan case. It arose last July when it was defeated 33-21 in a vote. There were 20 abstentions on the night.

Speaking after last night's vote, Christina O'Sullivan said: "How can they refuse children? It's disgraceful. I just can't believe they did that."

Kerry GAA Chairman Jerome Conway spoke at the meeting, outlining the history of the case and explaining that the agreement reached between the O'Sullivans and the County Committee, in the wake of a recent High Court challenge, required that delegates would have to vote on the derogation.

Michael O'Sullivan and representatives from the Listry and Firies clubs made the case for and against.

"We just want our sons to be able to play football with their friends who all play with Listry, whose pitch is only a mile-and-a-half from where we live while the Firies pitch is over seven miles away," commented O'Sullivan.

"We are not challenging the Parish rule and this case is not about breaking the Parish rule. It should be about allowing children to play football.

"They already train and play challenge matches with their friends in Listry, but they're not allowed to play (on the team) with them.

"At the centre of this dispute are children who cannot understand why they can't play football with a club where all their friends are playing - especially when others in the same situation have been given an exemption.

"It is very hard to explain to the boys why they cannot play with Listry when there are others from our area who have been allowed to do so in the past, the Aherns, McCarthys, Courtneys and Tadie O'Sullivan who were granted a derogation.

"We just want what's best for our children and if they are not allowed to play with Listry, they will not play with Firies and will be lost to the game."

Tom Kelliher from Firies spoke in support of the ruling, which helps to protect smaller clubs from losing players to bigger and more successful clubs. He insisted that it has served the organisation well "in stopping players from transferring to other clubs".

He also insisted that "the club never refused any youngster from Faha School to play with Firies and would welcome the O'Sullivans with open arms".

Former Kerry GAA chairman Gerald McKenna suggested that Firies might consider making part of their parish "an area where derogations could be allowed".

"Rancour and bitterness in opposite outposts of a parish does nothing for neighbours nor for the GAA," he added, while some delegates felt that the matter had been 'well thrashed out' last year and considered it dealt with.

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