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GAA: The Injustice behind London v Leitrim

Daniel Spillane looks at the decision not to let London GAA have Home advantage in the replay of the Connacht Senior Football Semi Final.

In the GAA, it has been widely agreed than when counties should play each other in the provincial Championship or league, a home and away agreement would be made between both teams each year. When a respective team plays another at home in one season, they should have to play away to that same team the following time, whether that falls in the same season or not.
But for some reason, this Sunday’s Connacht senior football Championship replay between Leitrim and London is not being played in London, despite the Exiles having travelled to Leitrim for the drawn game last Sunday.
This Sunday’s game will be played in Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. And, fair enough, it is technically a neutral venue, which under most circumstances would not be a problem for most counties. Leinster counties frequently play their games in Croke Park while the majority of Munster Hurling games are played in Semple Stadium or the Gaelic Grounds regardless of whether Tipperary or Limerick are playing.
But it would seem that in organising the replay for this Sunday, common sense has not prevailed amongst the hierarchy of the GAA.

Obviously this is a scenario that does not occur too often in the Championship, given London’s track record in the championship in recent years. But surely from a geographical perspective, some leeway has to be given. London have already spent a considerable amount of their funds to travel to play Leitrim last weekend and are now being asked to spend the same amount of money again this Sunday. While London are organising return flights for this weekend, all Leitrim have to worry about is organising a bus to Roscommon, which will be considerably less expensive than any flights that London GAA have to fork out for.

Of course, despite the amateur status of our Gaelic Games, the GAA may agree to cover the travelling expenses of London. But you must then ask if they are willing to pay such funds, why not instead cover Leitrim’s expenses to travel across the water to Ruislip? And at the risk of being controversial, it could be said that there may be a financial motive behind the GAA’s decision to play this game in Connacht, would they generate more profit by holding the game in Hyde Park rather than Ruislip? Whatever way you look at this, it shows a severe lack of respect to the London footballers.

Looking at this from a playing perspective, travelling from London to Roscommon is a draining task for the Exiles. Had they played Leitrim under different circumstances last weekend, I.e. on English soil rather than in Connacht, they may have won the game. Obviously it is fair that Leitrim have home advantage if it is their turn to host the championship game, but it is not fair that they only have to make a short journey to Hyde Park on the second day out while their opponents face a much more strenuous journey, their second in the space of a week.

London are on the brink of creating a small piece of history on Sunday; should they defeat Leitrim, it would be their third ever championship victory after raising the country’s eyebrows with a surprise victory over Sligo. As if that wasn’t enough of a reward, they will contest their first ever Connacht football final against Mayo should they be victorious in Roscommon. And while it would be radical to suggest they would defeat the reigning Connacht champions, reaching a Connacht final would do so much to raise the profile of GAA in London, and also in Ireland. They would have the opportunity of playing in a provincial final and having one of their games potentially being shown live on either TV3 or RTE, such exposure would surely catch the imagination of GAA fans all over the country that would have great pleasure in rooting for the underdog.

All of this potential is being put in jeopardy by one short sighted decision from the top table in the GAA.

It has already been discussed in detail about the lack of respect shown to the players of Carlow and Laois who have to play their qualifier tomorrow (Friday) night at the expense of a day’s work for some players. It would seem that when it comes to player welfare in these two cases, the GAA still has a long way to go in acknowledging their effort and dedication.

Sport is Everything. Daniel Spillane

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Author: The PA Team

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