The overriding theme from this year’s Third Level competitions has been expulsions and appeals off the pitch that has totally taken away from action on the field of play. So why is there so much hassle with these competitions?
So let’s look at the current situation in the 2015 Fitzgibbon Cup. Cork Institute of Technology and University of Limerick have already qualified for the semi-finals that are due to take place this Friday, the 27th of February, having both won their respective quarter-finals.
The other two quarter-finals were scheduled to take place last Thursday, the 19th of February, with Limerick Institute of Technology facing Waterford Institute of Technology and Mary Immaculate due to face off against Dublin Institute of Technology. Cue the confusion.
Mary I had been reinstated to the Fitzgibbon Cup after IT Carlow had been thrown out for fielding an ineligible player in the group stages. This was followed with an appeal from IT Carlow which ended up being successful and subsequently both quarter-finals were postponed and rescheduled for Tuesday, the 24th of Febraury.
End of the drama? Not quite.
Mary I decided to appeal against Carlow being reinstated and the appeal was to be heard by the DRA at 11:00 on Tuesday, the 24th of February with Carlow’s quarter-final against LIT that is fixed for 2:00 on the same day.
So far, it’s all a massive joke.
So now, with the finals weekend only four days away, the colleges have finally found out who is remaining in the tournament but they are yet to know who they will face in their next games. It has now only just been confirmed that the fixed games will go ahead.
There was a similar situation in the Sigerson Cup, but this was rectified relatively quickly, in comparison to the hurling, as UCC were forced to play their quarter-final after Sligo IT and Queen’s University were both thrown out of the competition.
Sligo IT found themselves back in after an appeal and played against UCC in the quarter-final minus Mark and Ryan McHugh who had both flown out to Dubai with the Donegal senior footballers. The fact that the game had been rearranged meant that Donegal took priority.
At this point, any reader who is confused just take a minute.
Overall the third-level competitions have been a joke off the field of play this year. There have been disputes, suspensions and expulsions in the past but 2015 has seen things go too far.
As a result, there is a mockery being made of the one of the best hurling tournaments in Ireland and this will also supply more ammunition to those intercounty managers, who would get rid of the Fitzgibbon Cup if they had their way.
It surely cannot be that difficult to decide whether a player is eligible to play for his college or not. There are too many grey areas and things must be cleared up and clarified going forward to avoid such a shambles that has been seen this year.
Some may say that a player attending a college should simply be allowed to play with that college. But it must be said that it is not that straight forward. A lot of people do try and find ways around the system so there does have to be some structure in place. But this structure must be ‘black and white’ to avoid repeats of what is happening now.
A good example to use is Cork’s Aidan Walsh. He was in the news a lot recently over his role as a dual player but in terms of third level GAA, he was a big news story only a few years ago.
Walsh began to attend DCU back in 2012 having spent previous years in CIT. He studied Physical Education in DCU and was set to be a big addition to what was already a star-studded DCU Sigerson Cup side. But he was prevented from lining out with DCU as he was enrolled in his third different third-level course, dating back to his time in CIT.
People sympathised with Walsh, feeling that he should not have been prevented from trying to play football whilst furthering his education.
But this writer asks; why is Aidan Walsh no longer attending DCU?
There could be plenty of other reasons, unaware to this writer, and Aidan Walsh is the only person who can answer the question correctly.
But the perception here, is the fact that he is no longer in DCU suggests that football may have been the main reason behind his decision to attend the college. And when that was prevented, there was no reason for him to remain there.
If education was the priority of that move to DCU, then playing Sigerson Cup football should have had no influence on the individuals attendance at the college.
That is not a criticism of the player, who it would seem saw a great opportunity to develop as an athlete and as a player. But this writer feels that this example sends out the wrong message.
It is also forgotten that Ciarán Sheehan, former Cork footballer and current Carlton Blues Australian Rules footballer was also due to go to DCU that year. He ended up not attending DCU, but it is hard to believe from the outside that DCU did not target these players.
People should be attending colleges for educational purposes and not sporting ones, and this is why a system should be in place.
The problems with the system in place at third-level have been clearly evident this year. There have been so many loopholes and objections that it is almost impossible to know what the rules are.
What is clear is the system and rules need to be communicated more efficiently to ensure that players are legally playing with their colleges and are not just staying in college to pursue careers in hurling and football.
The system also needs to be radically reassessed and made far more clear to third-level students and third-level managers to avoid a repeat scenario of what has transpired in the 2015 Fitzgibbon Cup.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.