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GAA must face the big issues

Sean Rice
Sean Rice

GAA must face big issues

THE two-month training ban imposed on county footballers across the country kicked in on November 1. But how many will honour it?
Introduced a few years ago mainly as a kind of antidote for burnout, the ban has become a bit of a joke in GAA circles because a majority of counties are now thought to be flagrantly flouting the edict.
Counties dismissed early from the championship moan – and with good reason – about the constraints the ban is having on their preparations for the new season. A pressing need for teams to be geared up for the demands of the increasingly competitive national league is their argument… and the provincial leagues of January do not provide that scope.
The Allianz league has assumed huge importance for those aspiring to championship success. There was a time when the likes of Kerry and Cork paid little attention to the secondary competition. Now it is regarded as a primer, and league winners of recent years are among the favourites for All-Ireland success.
An end of season break is, however, crucial for counties who have progressed to the final stages of the All-Ireland. For ten months in all sorts of weather these players have devoted every moment of their spare time to punishing preparation, meeting three and four nights a week to crawl towards a peak only a few will scale.
Club commitments extend the season even further, in many cases right up to the end of October. The call on underage players, on those with commitments to senior and underage football at county and club level, will eat inexorably into their interest.
For these essentially the two-month ban was introduced… in the face of hardened evidence that a surfeit of football is taking its toll of young footballers. There are clear indications that the enthusiasm of potential county stars is dimming rapidly.
Yet so many counties have been ignoring the ban that it would now seem to be virtually worthless.
A Laois motion at Congress last spring called for the training ban for senior inter-county teams to be limited to the month of December, but needing a two-thirds majority to succeed, the motion was lost on a 54-46 percent vote.
So the breach will continue as some managers will continue to cock a snout at authority. And you wonder at the wisdom of the powers that be in introducing a rule of that nature which they patently are unable to implement.
In the end it will be left to the more concerned managers to draw up their own measures to protect vulnerable players in their own way. Otherwise the drift from Gaelic games will continue.
And, while we are at it, what ever happened to the promise by headquarters to deal with the problem of illegal payments to managers?
In his address to Congress GAA president Christy Cooney said illegal payments were “a cancer running through our organisation and nurtured and supported by poor or complete abdication of leadership, and sometimes carefully orchestrated through supporters’ clubs or so-called friends of the GAA”
Welcome words. But what action is being taken by headquarters to deal with the problem?

Calling all green & reds
A REMINDER to all Green & Red golf devotees that the Christmas outing of the society is being held in Mulranny Links on Saturday next, November 19. Tee off at 9am and the course is as usual in the best of nick.

Islandeady’s very own Peter ‘The Great’


HE kicked with such force, it is said, that he once burst a ball while playing for his native Islandeady.
Fact or fiction! … hard to tell.
But the variety of Peter Solan’s goals for Mayo was rarely regarded as anything less than special. In the Connacht semi-final of ’49 he netted a record 5-2 against Sligo, and in the Connacht final of 1951 he stole the show with a hat trick that left the Galway defence gasping in disbelief.
Peter was a member of the side forced to call on Johnny Mulvey to make up the fifteen that drew with Kerry in a league match in Tralee in 1947. It was the genesis of Mayo’s glorious reign. And Solan was at the coalface.
In the subsequent play-off he was selected again at full-forward giving away eight inches in height to the legendary Joe Keohane. “Peter gave a scintillating performance that day which guaranteed him a place on the Mayo team which won two All-Irelands and two National Leagues,” said Eamonn Mongey.
Earlier that year in 1947, Solan won an All-Ireland Colleges medal with St Jarlath’s, bagging a brace of goals in the final. By 1951 he had added Sigerson, Railway Cup and four Connacht medals to his national League and two All-Ireland collection.
And he had not yet celebrated his 22nd birthday.
Said Mongey: “Although he was the smallest player on the team, Peter was a gifted footballer. He was amazingly fast, had a brilliant sidestep and a tremendous shot with either foot. Apart from that he was a superb ball player – on or off the ground.”
In an article in the recent Islandeady parish magazine, ‘Through the eye of the Bridge’, Peter’s sister Margaret McCormack recalled her brother’s exceptionally good coordination at an early age. He was very accurate at darts, and also won pennies off grown men at pitch and toss on Sunday afternoons, she wrote.
His fitness was developed in the hayfield, she said. “The hay had to be saved and stacked regardless of football. With plenty of work on the farm, the muscles were in good shape without much training.”
Apart from football, Peter, according to Eamonn Mongey, was “ a most delightful person. I never remember him being involved in argument with anyone or speaking ill of anyone. His approach to life in general was totally relaxed.
He was often found reading a cowboy story on the morning of an All-Ireland or some other big game.”
Mongey said the Islandeady man was also quite an entertainer. “He could play the fiddle or dance a reel, and on one occasion I remember him doing both simultaneously. He was also a useful pianist. And he did it all with that boyish grin which he never lost.
Peter won a Mayo county senior medal with Castlebar Mitchels in 1950 while working in McHale Park. He did engineering in University College Galway, and after returning from a stint in Nigeria won a further Connacht medal with Mayo in 1955. Four years later he wore the Mayo jersey for the last time scoring 1-1 in Mayo’s defeat by Leitrim.
He then left for South Africa where he met and married Maureen Maher, whose father was a native of Roscrea. They came back to Ireland and for a while lived close to Eamonn Mongey in Dublin where Peter played a major role in some of the musicals staged by the local musical society.
He and Maureen returned to settle in South Africa and Mongey said he lost touch with him. “But one thing I do know – he never changed. He couldn’t. He was one of those persons born to see good in everyone, and to do good for everyone.”
Peter died in 1985 in the country of his adoption. His name evokes memories of a gifted footballer that still warms the hearts of those who followed Mayo in the golden era.

Just a thought …
The official attendance at the All-Ireland final between Mayo and Meath in 1951 was 78,201. The receipts from the game totalled £9,334, 11s.
When the two met in the All-Ireland final of 1996 they netted an estimated €4 million.