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Brolly – Transfer of loyalties

The Sean Johnston debacle shows where the GPA semi-professional ethos will take the GAA

WHEN Down’s legendary forward and current manager Wee James McCartan applied for a transfer from his club Tullylish to Burren in the 90s, the county was thrown into uproar.

As the crisis mounted, a panel was convened by the County Board to investigate whether Burren parish was in fact his permanent residence.

The rule specifies that a player can only play for a given club if his permanent residence is in the locality. The address provided by James was Lazy Hill, Burren, Co Down.

When the  deputation from the Board went to check it out for themselves, they found a rundown caravan parked in a field. “It wasn’t in great condition” was one official’s description.

Alas, like old Mother Hubbard’s, the cupboards and fridge were bare, sparking concerns in Down that their All-Star corner forward was surviving on a diet of fast food and Chinese carry-outs.

To allay their concerns, the officials were shown a set of ambitious plans to build an imposing residence on the site.

To this day, Lazy Hill is a green field. As for the tumbledown caravan, it is gone. I like to think that the makers of Father Ted spotted it on a random trip through the Mourne county and snapped it up at a bargain price, then used it in the celebrated episode where Ted and the lads go on holiday.

“Is that Seaneen Reilly back from the disco with some heroin?”

I had assumed it was crushed in a breaker’s yard years ago, but suddenly, the transfer caravan has resurfaced, this time in Staplestown, County Kildare. Last Wednesday, the 2.35pm race at Down Royal was the Sean Graham Bookmakers Maiden Hurdle.

When the name of horse number eight was announced, a ripple of laughter went round the meeting.

The horse that caused the mirth was Kildare Blow-in, with a competitive record of seven starts, no wins, a third and two seconds. The talk quickly turned to Seanie Johnston.

The first team he ever kicked a ball for was Cavan Gaels. Based in Cavan town, they are the county’s powerhouse and Seanie is one of their key men.

The reigning county champions have won eight titles in ten years. In the 2011 season, Seanie was the county’s captain. A Cavan man to the core?

Think again. Suddenly, he wants to play for Kildare, but he can only do that if his permanent residence is there.

If you would like to read the whole story, buy the current issue of Gaelic Life – published February 9 – online or in your local newsagent


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