Off The Fence

Off The Fence: Tyrone readers miffed at £15 player levy and waterlogged Healy Park

The sidelines at Healy Park last Sunday as the Tyrone v Cavan match was called off

TWO miles outside Omagh and you get the news. Match off. Everyone suspected as much.

Rain and Healy Park have never been bosom buddies. You just knew last Sunday’s game between Tyrone and Cavan wasn’t going ahead but still you had to make the journey.

Of course, the Irish News sports team are given mileage expenses, so I wasn’t out of pocket, unlike the thousands of supporters that had either arrived at Healy Park or were making their approach.

A local Tyrone referee inspected the pitch at 10.30am. Knowing the drainage issues at Healy Park that early assessment should have been good enough for the GAA rather than waiting until 1.22pm for official ref David Gough to confirm what we already knew.

And then, of course, there is the small matter of the costs being levied on the Tyrone senior football panel by their county board and the fall-out from that.

WE’LL start off with ‘Declan, life-long Tyrone fan’ who left this voicemail: “I’ve a few things to get off my chest this week. First up, it is the disgraceful behaviour of the county board for charging players £15 to pay for equipment.

“It’s not that long ago our county chairperson Roisin Jordan was talking about building a new stadium in Tyrone that would cost maybe £5m or £6m and now they’re asking for £500 or £600 [from players]?

“And talking of stadiums, it’s a disgrace that nothing has been done about the playing surface at Healy Park. Tyrone have had only four home games this year – two of them did not go ahead as planned: one was moved and the other cancelled. The other thing that really irritated me was the late cancellation of the game.

“My understanding that a Tyrone referee deemed the pitch unplayable at 10.30am due to the amount of surface water on it - and yet we had to wait until 1.30pm for the match referee to come all the way from Meath to tell us the same thing.”

RESPONSE: Given the rain and pitch surface, David Gough should really have been in Omagh much earlier. Either that or protocol has to change and allow a local referee to call the game off in the morning to save supporters a lot of hassle and expense.

‘TYRONE man’ was also miffed at the late call-off last Sunday: “I was appalled at the lateness of when the game at Omagh was called off. While the pitch may not have been playable I think it could have been called off sooner.

“The drainage system in Omagh needs looked at - as the county final replay was called off in September last year.”

‘TYRONE Caller’ echoed those sentiments: “When is Tyrone going to take their matches out of Healy Park? Every time there is a heavy shower the pitch is waterlogged. To wait an hour before the game to call it off was unforgivable.”

MAKING his eagerly awaited Congress debut, our colleague Cahair O’Kane had one of those instantly forgettable weekends. He watched delegates practise their own form of democracy and when he reached his car to make the long drive home, he’d been clamped.

What a truly miserable couple of days for the Drum clubman.

A few callers contacted us – not to help pay for his €80 clamp – but to agree with his assessment of Congress democracy in his Kicking Out column on Tuesday.

‘Eugene’ emailed: “I fully agree with Cahair O'Kane's article on GAA democracy. The result of the proposal on a round robin system to replace the All-Ireland quarter finals was a foregone conclusion.

“The only way we were going to hear anything different was if Warren Beatty made the announcement.

“The GPA and recently formed CPA were against the proposal.

“What about an SPA (Supporters Paying Association) for those who travel and pay to watch our games. The new proposal means extra games with more costs. Compare the price of accommodation in Kerry for a National League in winter with a ‘Super 8’ game in July should Tyrone draw Kerry away.

“Did players or supporters come into the equation for this new arrangement?

“Like most people, I believe the new ‘Super 8’ round robin system was introduced to provide more big games for TV.”

ANOTHER caller agreed with part of Cahair’s Kicking Out column but called out players who don’t attend their club AGMs to affect change.

“I agree with Cahair O’Kane, and I would say most people do, about being totally opposed to this new structure of Super 8. But to complain about a lack of democracy in the GAA and the players’ voices not being heard, how many players attend their AGM?

“From my own club and talking to others from other clubs senior players don’t attend. That’s where their voice should be heard – at club AGMs, and then those opinions could be brought to county board meetings. Democracy starts at the club and that’s where people’s voices need to be heard.”

RESPONSE: Players need to be more engaged and so too do the Gaelic Players Association. The fact that they made their opposition to the 'Super 8' known on the eve of Congress brings out the scepticism in some of us.

‘GAA caller’ got in touch to urge the GAA to reduce admission prices for games that are broadcast ‘live’.

“TG4 had the Slaughtneil versus Cuala All-Ireland Club hurling semi-final last Saturday and the GAA is obviously getting some sort of funding from them.

“The GAA should consider reducing the admission for those matches because the decision you have to make is whether you go down with your kids or watch it on TV.

“I had a bit of an interest in the match as a neutral… If the costs were reduced you would have far more neutrals coming to the see the game.”

RESPONSE: Good idea but it will fall on deaf ears.

AND finally, ‘Castlewellan spectator’ was miffed at the black card that was issued to the St Ronan’s goalkeeper during last Thursday's MacRory Cup semi-final in Armagh last week.

“I was at the St Ronan’s, Lurgan versus St Colman’s, Newry match at the Athletic Grounds and I’d like to criticise the referee for giving a black card to the St Ronan’s goalkeeper [Eoghan Mulholland].

“Now, I’m a neutral. St Ronan’s were half in the game at that stage and in the opinion of St Colman’s supporters around me they thought it was a free out.

“But the referee didn’t even consult his umpires. People around me couldn’t believe it. Don’t get me wrong, St Colman’s were the better team. As an ex-teacher, those boys put a lot into these games and your main position is goalkeeper. But their game went up in smoke after the St Ronan’s keeper was black-carded.”

RESPONSE: I yearn for the day when the black card is binned and the crudest form of refereeing inconsistency is removed from GAA fields for ever.

Off The Fence

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