The proposed amalgamation of Courtwood, Park-Ratheniska and Annanough failed to receive the backing it needed at last night’s county board meeting, with clubs voting against it by a margin of 19 to 15.
Report by Rory Delaney
The three clubs had agreed to join forces to compete in the senior football championship for the coming year, but their affiliation to the competition was rejected by clubs last night. A vote was put to the floor at last night’s meeting on whether to allow the team to play in this year’s championship. Only 15 clubs voted in favour of the move, with 19 voting against it, while it is also believed a significant number of club delegates at the meeting abstained from the vote. The County Executive also abstained from the vote, while most of the clubs who voted in favour of the move were hurling clubs.
Had the amalgamated side, O’Moore’s, been allowed into the championship, it was proposed that a preliminary round be added to the current 16 team format for the championship. O’Moore’s would have been expected to meet one of the senior teams in that preliminary round, with the winner advancing to an open draw for the first round of the championship. The losers of the preliminary round would then go to second round of the championship, where they would be joined by the eight losing teams from the first round of the championship. Another preliminary round would then have to be played to reduce the number of teams in the losers section back down to eight.
Laois GAA Chairman Gerry Kavanagh admitted he was disappointed for the clubs involved that they did not get the required support. “I am disappointed for the clubs who put forward the application, there was a good bit of work gone into it and they had crossed a lot of bridges that needed to be crossed, and I’m very, very sorry for them.”
The proposal failed to get the backing of the clubs though, and Kavanagh revealed that concerns over the new format the championship would take were the core of the problem for the clubs who voted against it. “There were concerns from the clubs that this (the amalgamation) was not planned properly and it was a bit rushed.”
“One proposal was to relegate two teams from the championship, and that proved to be a stumbling block. The real kernel of the problem for most people who spoke was the change to to structure of the championship. The senior championship is very efficiently run and there is a good structure to it, you know when you are going to be playing and you know when there are going to be replays. There was a worry that the addition of a 17th team would hinder that, which it was going to.”
Kavanagh also admitted to his surprise that no members of the Executive had voted on the matter, stating they were all free to do so. “There was no directive on it (to abstain from voting), I don’t know why it happened.” Kavanagh admitted that if there had been a conflict it would be for members of the CCC, who had drawn up the proposal for the championship, as it meant they were twice having a say on the issue. The rest of the executive were free to vote on whether to allow the new team in or not, but opted not to vote at all.
After having spent much of the winter coming to an agreement, all three clubs have expressed their disappointment at the outcome of last night’s meeting. “It wasn’t done lightly” said Courtwood secertary Pat O’Connell. “There was a lot of background work done on it.
“There isn’t much we would have done differently, the application went well and everything was done by the rule.”
Park-Ratheniska chairman Jim Morrin was disappointed that the players would miss out on the chance to play senior football. “We’re disappointed, there was a lot of work gone into it and it wasn’t done on a whim. We did it because our players asked for it and they were hoping to play senior, because we’re not strong enough at the moment to get out of the Intermediate on our own.”
Morrin admitted that it was “quite possible” the clubs could apply again next year, but nothing has been spoken of just yet. With the County Board having gone on record in the past with their desire to see some clubs come together to field divisional teams, the Park-Ratheniska man felt that the three clubs didn’t fit the criteria. “The senior clubs are happy enough with the way things are, and I can understand that as well, but the County Board were looking for change, but we’re not the right type. I think they are looking for senior clubs to change.” Morrin also thanked the clubs who did back the proposal and voted in favour of it.
Annanough GAA club also released a statement on the matter. The statement in full is as follows. “Annanough are disappointed that our proposed group team with Park-Ratheniska and Courtwood has not received the support of the majority of clubs or the County Board Executive. Divisional and Group teams work very well in counties like Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick by giving as many players as possible the chance to play senior football, while also maintaining the identity and history of smaller rural clubs.
“In the current environment of widespread emigration, which disproportionally impacts on smaller rural clubs, the basic aim of the association to the preservation and promotion of Gaelic Games can, we believe, be best served in this manner. This team could have helped to improve the standard of senior football within the county and perhaps encourage other clubs to follow suit. It is disappointing that narrow club interest seems to have outweighed the wider goal of promoting football within the county.
“The County Secretary has gone on the record on more than one occasion to encourage teams like this one. Therefore it is very disappointing that a genuine effort to go down this route has been dismissed.”