Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
It was reported last Friday in Fairfax press that Tadhg Kennelly’s new AFL ambassadorial role had upset the Irish GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), following the hosting of an Australian (rules) Football recruiting ‘camp’ (combine) in Dublin.
The article suggested that the GAA had been uneasy about it and that the GAA bosses repudiated a claim that they had been informed. Stating that it had been reported in Ireland that the GAA bosses “denied receiving any formal notification of Kennelly's new role or the AFL's strategy on the recruitment of amateur Gaelic footballers”. Even if this is the case, the question really is how big a deal is it?
By going straight to an Irish source – in this case the IrishTimes.com, and the GAA operations Manager Fergal McGill was reported as saying : “In relation to Tadhg Kennelly’s appointment, Andrew Demetriou would have been in contact with Páraic Duffy,”
“I wouldn’t say we’ve had any further formal communications with them. If they want to inform us [about recruitment camps] as a matter of courtesy that’s fine but it is nothing to do with us. Same goes for soccer or rugby signing up fellas who are playing GAA, they don’t tell us either.”
GAA president Christy Cooney, while indicating he didn’t know about the camp; pretty well brushed off the matter:
“I have gone through this whole rigmarole about Australia before and I don’t mean that in a negative way but we have only a handful of players playing in Australia and if people want to play Australian Rules or play professionally, they have that right and we would never stand in their way.“
“That right is open to any player in any code, whether it is rugby, soccer, AFL, whatever it is, they have that right and if they get a career out of it we wish them the best of luck. We can’t stand in any player’s way if they want to play an international game and we should never try.”
The reality is that the GAA sports get pillaged already by soccer and rugby in particular. That the AFL provides options somewhat farther flung than across the Irish Sea probably makes the AFL far less of a real threat than these other codes. And, only a very small number of the Irish recruits don’t return within a couple of years.
Meanwhile, the AFL website ran an article by Jason Phelan that reviewed what was described as the “First AFL draft combine held on Irish soil”. There were 15 young men participating in a one day condensed version of the four day NAB AFL draft combine that was conducted in Melbourne last October. The drills included 20m sprints, agility runs, vertical jumping, beep test as well as skills oriented sessions and decision-making exercises. More can be read here.
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