THE Mayo masters football team have been left with no option but to disband after the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) of the GAA decided to shelve the Over-40s championship last week.
The reigning All-Ireland champions learned of the competition’s fate after a training session last Tuesday night — just days before they were due to play their second game of the season against Sligo.
The Mayo News understands that the masters, a competition which caters for Over-40s footballers, has officially been suspended by the CCCC because it had become ‘too serious’.
This means that the competitive football careers of the likes of Burrishoole’s John Pat Sheridan, Swinford’s Kieran Gallagher, former Mayo All Star Pat Fallon, Castlebar’s Paul Jordan and Kilmeena’s Darren Madden are now over.
Ger Butler, one of the chief organisers of the Mayo squad for the last five years, spoke last week of his disappointment and anger at the GAA’s decision.
“Our players are very angry, disappointed and confused,” the Shrule native told The Mayo News. “We cannot understand why they want to get rid of the competition. It doesn’t cost Croke Park a cent. Last year we even bought our medals for the All-Ireland final.
“The craic was great and we made some great friends,” he added. “I’m completely baffled. We’re always told that life begins at 40. In the GAA life ends at 40.”
It seems that the GAA are looking to integrate masters football into a new social and recreational games model which is being rolled out by a new division of the association, headed by Pat Daly.
The rules of this new model are modified to make it non-contact, allow a clean pick and just two plays of the ball before release. It is envisaged that this game will appeal to those who want to play a less competitive brand of hurling and football.
“We’ve spent two years trying to sit down with authorities in Croke Park to discuss this matter but they never agreed to meet us,” explained Ger Butler.
“We also sent a motion to Congress from Mayo last April asking the GAA to recognise masters football but it never made the clár. Somebody in authority did not want masters football to continue.”
“There is competitive blood in all of us,” he continued. “Many of those involved still play junior football with our clubs. Out of a Mayo squad of 36, about 34 coach Gaelic football at some level.
“I’d say 95pc of those playing masters football will not continue to play if we are integrated into social and recreational games.”
This suspension of the masters competition comes less than four months after Mayo were presented with their 2009 All-Ireland medals.
Speaking on that occasion, then-Mayo manager, Kenneth Mortimer, was scathing in his criticism of the GAA’s attitude to the over-40s competition.
“It’s time to wake up,” said the two-time All Star. “The promotion of our games begins and ends with these men and people like them. If we don’t utilise these men for the betterment of the GAA we’re in trouble.
“These are the men who hold the future of football in their hands. They’re the men who are out there in the morning training the kids, they’re the men who are marking the pitch, coaching the skills, handing on the love of football. If they’re not utilised and recognised properly we’re doing them a disservice.
“If the GAA deny them the chance to play competitive football they’re going against the very principles upon which the GAA was founded,” said Mortimer.
The Mayo masters squad are due to meet later this week to discuss the issue further.