Former Munster Council chairman Noel Walsh has castigated Croke Park hierarchy over their “unjust” treatment of Longford GAA club Dromard.
The Longford club has been slapped with a €2,000 fine for allowing the Jamie Carragher soccer school take place on their grounds last August. Dromard are the first club in the history of the GAA to be penalised for breaching Rule 5.1.
Walsh, who will, for a second successive year, table a motion at Congress calling for county grounds to be opened up to other sports, said the GAA are in danger of killing off rural clubs if they continue to pick so unfairly on the association’s “small fish”.
Instead of forcing €2,000 from the Dromard coffers, Walsh believes Croke Park should pay €2,000 to Dromard “for their hospitality to fellow Irishmen who wanted to kick a ball around on their field”.
“Pat Spillane was of saying of Templenoe last week that they have only 500 people, these small, rural clubs are struggling to survive. Encouragement is what these small clubs want for their great efforts, not financial punishment,” he fumed.
“It is terrible what is being done to Dromard. They did break the rules, but who pursed them, who told on them? How many clubs are allowing lads go in and play soccer matches on their field? There is hardly a club in the country that is not.
“This is a threat, what Croke Park are saying is that if you do this you will be punished. In the classroom long ago, if you misbehaved, there was physical punishment. The GAA believe in financial punishment.
“It is terrible to punish a small club when you see the transgressions that larger clubs and counties get away with; you saw what happened to the Dublin player who got a red card last year, he was reinstated before the next match. If he was from Dromard he wouldn’t have got off. It is bit like life in general, the smaller people are always put down and the bigger you are the less likely that you will be picked on.”
With his motion to open up county grounds to other sports falling well short of the necessary two-thirds majority last year (it received 37.9% backing), Walsh is adamant that the GAA’s disciplining of Dromard will cause a surge in support for his proposal.
“You might find that Longford last year voted against this motion. I don’t think they’ll be voting against it this time.
“In 80% of counties, the need for the county to host a rugby or soccer match may never arise, but that is no reason why you shouldn’t have the facility for applying for it.”
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