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Mayo Over-40s captain demands answers

‘We want some answers!’

Mayo Masters captain calls on Croke Park officials to meet him face-to-face

Mike Finnerty

THE captain of the Mayo over 40s football team has called on GAA President Christy Cooney or Ard Stiúrthóir Padraic Duffy to meet him face-to-face to explain why the competition has been scrapped by Croke Park.
John Pat Sheridan from Burrishoole slammed the GAA’s decision to deny him ‘the right’ to play over 40s football for Mayo and disputed Croke Park’s view that the competition was only catering for ‘a small elite’.
Speaking to The Mayo News last night, Sheridan explained that Mayo Masters players have been unable to secure a meeting with GAA officials at Croke Park to discuss the matter, despite repeated efforts over the last six months.
He also revealed that a motion passed at the Mayo GAA convention last December, which called on the GAA to recognise the Masters championship as an official All-Ireland competition, wasn’t heard at the GAA’s Annual Congress.
The popular Mayo skipper was speaking in the wake of correspondence from Croke Park last week which was received by Mayo GAA Secretary, Seán Feeney, relating to the All-Ireland Masters competition which was scrapped last month to make way for recreational, non-contact football for over 40s.
Feeney, on behalf of the Mayo GAA executive, had asked Croke Park officials to reinstate the original championship. However, their response was unequivocal.
Their statement said that the GAA was ‘fully in favour’ of involving older players in recreational games and competitions but were, ‘not willing to sanction structures to competitions that essentially limit participation and make such games the preserve of a single panel within any given county’.
The spokesperson also stressed the popularity of the recreational game and concluded by saying that this was, ‘the best way forward for our Association, if we are to serve the huge number of older members of our Association that are interested in playing hurling and football, and not just a small elite, that wish to play at inter-county level.’
“It’s a sad situation when you can’t even get a hearing,” said John Pat Sheridan. “I have tried every avenue possible through Burrishoole GAA club to find out what’s going on, and I have failed every time. The next time you hear people in Croke Park talking about the grassroots you can take it with a pinch of salt. The gap between them and us is getting wider and wider all the time.
“This competition has been here since 1990 and caters for anybody who wants to play Masters football,” he added. “Nobody has ever been turned away.
“In terms of recreational football, I don’t know how lads who haven’t played football for ten or fifteen years would feel about the likes of Michael John Walsh from Tourmakeady or Noel Stagg from Hollymount, lads who still play with their clubs, turning up to play non-contact, recreational football.
“The vast majority of the Mayo over 40s squad have never worn a county jersey, including myself,” continued Sheridan, who still lines out with his club’s Junior B team. “And I resent being called, ‘an elite player’. The GAA, for me, is about participation, involvement and enjoyment. And the Mayo Masters lads all enjoy ourselves.”
The Mayo masters squad, who won the All-Ireland title last year, have continued to train in recent weeks and are planning to ask club delegates at the next Mayo GAA Board meeting for their support again.
“It’s the only avenue open to us,” said John Pat Sheridan. “I would love to sit down with Christy Cooney or Padraic Duffy and put our case to him. There’s a reason that lads still play football at 40. We’ve seen and done it all before. And we’re going nowhere.
“Plus, what’s the definition of a Masters player? There is no such definition. For GAA purposes we are all identified as senior players. So, does that mean that the likes of Noel Stagg can’t play for the Hollymount club anymore? Can I not play junior ‘B’ for Burrishoole? Who says who can or can’t play contact sport?”
All questions that remain to be answered.