Mountmellick GAA chairman Michael Gormley has said that his club will consider proposing a motion to ban transfers to big Dublin clubs after it emerged this week that star player John O’Loughlin is to transfer to last year’s beaten SFC finalists St Brigid’s.
O’Loughlin has been offered a coaching job with the Blanchardstown-based club that he will take up when he completes his Sports Management masters in UCD in May. He will become the ninth Laois player to move to a Dublin club. And while it’s unlikely that Mountmellick will try to block the move, Gormley says that he will be putting the issue to a club meeting with the view to tabling a motion to bring to county convention and later to congress.
“We’re disappointed to lose a player of John’s calibre,” said Gormley yesterday (Tuesday). “It’s a big challenge to all clubs and it’s very unfair that players are allowed to leave small clubs and go to Dublin. There should be a block put on it - all the players are going the one way, there’s nobody coming the other way.
“We’ve been hit by emigration already and to start losing more players makes it even more difficult. We only barely survived in senior last year and while we have had a couple of tough years when we were re-building our dressing rooms, we now have state of the art facilities.”
Despite reaching senior semi-finals in 2007 and 2008 after coming up from intermediate, Mountmellick struggled badly last year and were relegated from Division 1 without winning a game and only secured their senior status following a replay win over Emo in the relegation semi-final.
Laois GAA chairman Brian Allen says there is little that the county board can do but that “it is something the GAA as a whole need to look at”. “It’s very disappointing,” added Allen. “We’re again losing our top players and it’s demeaning our local championships. Nearly every club is being hit and Laois seem to be affected more than any other county. We’ve looked at every opportunity to get players work and we’ve been on to employers but it’s very difficult at the moment.”
O’Loughlin says it was a hard decision to make but he is looking forward to the new challenge. “I was approached by Brigid’s a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “It’s too good an opportunity to turn down and I’m going to start working with them straight away when I finish college in May. Unfortunately it means leaving Mountmellick which is tough. I had to think long and hard about it but I don’t see it as a permanent thing. I will be back playing with Mountmellick at some stage and it will be reviewed after a year.”
St Brigid’s were beaten in last year’s final by Kilmacud Crokes but are a hugely vibrant club. They won last year’s intermediate final and only a couple of years ago fielded two teams in the senior championship and actually met each other in the first round. They were also in last year’s Junior ‘A’ and Junior ‘B’ finals. Current Dublin players Kevin Bonnar, Paddy Andrews and Barry Cahill are among their big names and they are managed by former Meath legend Gerry McEntee.
Colm Coss, Mountmellick’s other representative on the Laois senior panel, has dismmised rumours that he is set to join Brigid’s local rivals Oliver Plunkett’s, home club of the Brogans, Ross McConnell and Jason Sherlock. “It’s not true,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
O’Loughlin’s transfer to St Brigid’s is the third high-profile switch made by a Laois player already this year. Brendan Quigley has moved from Timahoe to Fingallians while Annanough’s Rory Stapleton has moved to 2008 All Ireland champions St Vincent’s.
Michael Tierney, Darren Rooney, Colm Parkinson and Colm Begley all played with Parnells in last year’s championship while former Stradbally player Stephen Lawlor featured with St Vincent’s and former Portarlington player has been with Oliver Plunketts for a number of seasons.