Ulster Council deny ban on ball boys
AN Ulster Council official has denied a claim that a ban on ball boys is preventing northern goalkeepers from replicating Stephen Cluxton's speedy kick-outs.
Widely credited for revolutionising the role of the modern goalkeeper, Cluxton's rapid re-starts are assisted by a team of ball boys who feed him a ball immediately after the opposition registers a score or a wide.
While watching Dublin's victory over Laois in Croke Park, Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan noted how the ball boys in Croke Park facilitated Cluxton's quick kick-outs.
Morgan told a national newspaper: "You saw on Sunday in Croke Park how quickly Stephen Cluxton is able to re-start the game. It's obvious that Dublin have appointed ball boys to fire a ball to Cluxton whenever he calls for one."
Although a huge admirer of the Dublin captain, Morgan said he wasn't allowed to use ball boys in either of Tyrone's two games against Down.
"We were told in Omagh and in Newry that we weren't allowed anyone to feed the ball back out to us from behind the goal.
"Why is it different in Croke Park? Are we allowed ball boys or not? Personally speaking, I'd like to see them in every ground.
"Why not run a competition for young boys and girls and offer them the chance to be part of the occasion as well?
"Not only does it help to level the playing field in terms of restarts but it makes the game flow much better.
"Is that not what everyone associated with the game wants?"
However, the Ulster Council's Ryan Feeney insists the provincial body is not enforcing a directive which prevents goalkeepers from using ball boys.
"The Ulster Council has no stated policy on ball boys, but if any county wants to make a request, it will be considered in line with the GAA's policy.
"The GAA's only policy on the issue is that ball boys must be 18-yearsold."
Feeney said that no county has issued an official request for ball boys to be used in Ulster Championship games.
"This is not something that has come across our desk," said Feeney. "If a county wants to use ball boys, we would consider their request, but we've had no approaches yet."
Croke Park official Alan Milton confirmed that ball boys are used in all the senior Championship games played at headquarters.
"We use ball boys to ensure the hasty recommencement of play. Quite often you will find the goalkeepers speak with the umpires and the ball boys. They establish a system which suits them.
"The ball boys are told to be as prompt as they can."
Although ball boys assist goalkeepers in the Leinster Championship and in the All-Ireland series, Milton said the Ulster Council was under no obligation to follow the same procedure.
"The use of ball boys in Ulster is very much an issue for the Ulster Council," he said.