London take steps to save footballers’ season

An emergency county board meeting called for this evening looks set to determine the fate of the London footballers, with the panel on course to be decimated by the ‘Seanie Johnston rule’.

The rule, which was introduced last month at GAA Congress, states that a player who wishes to play for a county team must first play championship for a club in that county in the current or previous season. As it stands, that would impact on 12 members of the London panel, ruling them out of contention for their Connacht SFC clash with Leitrim at Ruislip on June 3. Based on the Exiles’ exceptional circumstances, the London County Board applied to Croke Park for deviation under the rule, but this appeal had to be withdrawn at last weekend’s Central Council meeting as the rule doesn’t come into effect until May 14. Deviation under a rule cannot be requested until a rule is officially introduced.

Instead, an alteration was made to the rule which means it will only apply to Tier One counties (those who compete in the Liam MacCarthy Cup in hurling and Sam Maguire Cup in football) until January 1, 2013. This gives an exemption to the London and Warwickshire hurlers for 2012, but it leaves the fate of the London footballers this summer in the hands of the county’s clubs.

A proposal will be made tonight to bring the first round of club championship games in London forward from July to the weekend of May 19/20. If clubs vote in favour of the proposal, it should solve the problem for manager Paul Coggins and his players by offering them a chance to confirm their eligibility for London just a fortnight before the meeting with Leitrim.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that it has come to this,” said London captain Sean McVeigh, one of those who will be impacted by the rule having played club championship at home for All Saints of Antrim last season.

“I think the problem is that the big-wigs in the GAA don’t care about football outside of Croke Park. That’s what it comes down to. We’re far out of sight for them so they’re not worried about us.

“We’ve been making great strides so it would be a disaster for London football. It will destroy it.”


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