Seamus Moynihan has increased the pressure on the GAA to intervene in the ongoing recruitment of talented young players by the AFL, claiming the situation is “insane”.
The Kerry great said he doesn’t blame AFL clubs, or even figures like Tadhg Kennelly and Marty Clarke who have helped in the process, but lays the blame squarely at the door of the GAA.
The four-time All-Ireland winner has watched players including Kennelly himself, Tommy Walsh, and more recently Mark O’Connor and Stefan Okunbar, leave the Kingdom for the AFL and claims their clubs, or Kerry GAA, should have been financially compensated.
Moynihan coached David Clifford at club level and said the AFL ‘tried hard’ to lure the Fossa phenomenon too, but that the current Kerry captain ultimately felt “it was always Kerry first, no matter what”.
Moynihan’s words chime with the comments of his former team-mate Tomás Ó Sé who stated in 2018 that the recruitment of GAA players is “disgraceful” and “a kick in the hole for clubs who’ve brought them through and given them everything”.
“It’s like coming into an orchard, you can come into the orchard and rob the best apples and then you’re gone and you don’t have to pay a price for anything,” said Moynihan. “I think the GAA are leaving themselves wide open, these scouts can come over and take our best players and offer them a contract.
The local club, the county board, get absolutely nothing. It’s an insane setup at the minute.
“I can’t for the life of me understand it. I know it’s an amateur sport but there is no way you should be allowed to come in, grab a player from a club or a county, without some financial reward going back to the club or county.
You have to put stumbling blocks up to these guys coming.
“I think the GAA have to be resourceful in terms of putting packages in place for guys going to college and not allowing our best players to go on a plane and just shoot over. While we can’t compete with some of the packages that are coming in, we can certainly make it easier for students and whatnot to go to college and make the financial burden a bit smaller.”
Even if AFL clubs were agreeable to a compensation package for clubs or counties, there’s no guarantee the GAA would sanction such a practice due to its amateur status.
“There’s no doubt that is tricky but as long as we continue doing this, we’re as open as anything to allowing our players to just go,” said the former Kerry defender.
“If you’re a scout from Australia and you’re looking at the likes of Tadhg Kennelly in his day, or Cathal McShane, or all these brilliant guys who are coming through at U17 level, it’s open country.
"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to go in and see the calibre or the quality of a player like David Clifford when he was an U17. You are trying to rob these guys and and it’s a loss to all of the GAA when those guys go to Australia.”
Moynihan isn’t a fan of Gaelic football’s new rules either, arguing that the advanced mark in particular is only setting the game up even more like Australian Rules, helping AFL scouts to identify talent.
“We should not be changing rules so that these guys can come over, look at our game, and see who they like,” he said.
“We are making the rules easier for these scouts to come over and see, ‘Oh, this is a quality player here, this is a good kicker, this guy is well able to catch the ball inside in the scoring zone’.
I think we should be trying to improve our own game, not adapting it to look like another sport.
Aside from the AFL poaching issue, Moynihan feels that the new rules are going to cause chaos at club level.
“However hard it is going to be for a senior referee in Croke Park, I just don’t know where we are going to go when it’s Brosna playing Cordal in a Division 3 game below in Kerry.
“How are referees going to manage that when there is no umpire and linesman? It is just going to be carnage.”