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Warning bells ringing for league

Sport

Comment
John Corless

GLENHEST ROVERS’ 6-1 win over Straide and Foxford United on Sunday secured the north Mayo side’s Super League status and relegated both Claremorris and Ballyhaunis Town.  
The Celtic v Ballyhaunis match was postponed due to a bereavement in Ballyhaunis and even with two games remaining, the East Mayo side can’t catch Glenhest who are seven clear of trouble.
Claremorris, somewhat surprisingly, defeated Kiltimagh/Knock United 3-2 on Sunday but can’t make up the ground, even if they manage to beat Ballyheane in the final game.
What is worrying about the Glenhest result is that S&F could only field eight players.
That they only lost by five goals, is a good performance in the circumstances.  
In the Premier Division, Crossmolina’s win over Killala had to be stopped (at 11-0) by referee Damien McGrath, when Killala fell below the requisite seven players on the pitch. This inability to field a full complement of players in both cases is most likely due to a clash with GAA matches.
In the Super League, it is highly likely that the two clubs relegated on Sunday would have suffered that fate anyway. Teams at the bottom of leagues rarely play themselves out of trouble.  (I know this better than most, as a Middlesbrough supporter.)
But what if Glenhest, Claremorris and Ballyhaunis (or any other three teams) were level on points going into the penultimate or final round, and a team already safe from relegation had only seven or eight players available, and had to play one of them.
It could distort the outcome.
The competition for players from the various sports, was never greater.
GAA is very strong in Mayo. Rugby is gaining ground. And there are all sorts of other distractions. And managers tell me that it’s harder to get players to commit since Covid, even without these distractions. Some players won’t turn-up for training.
And often those who do, can’t train meaningfully, due to low numbers.
The GAA club championship started two weeks ago, when the Super League was not completed. Yet there were a number of weekends free this year when no Super League fixtures were scheduled.  If the Mayo League wants to avoid a repeat of what happened this weekend, it must act to avoid a clash with the GAA championship.
I spoke with Mayo League officials this weekend unofficially, and one suggestion that came up was to fine clubs who could not put out eleven players for a fixture, and the sum mentioned was €500.  This was suggested as a deterrent. In my view, this is outrageous. When you look at the hard-working officials in clubs, who cut grass, mark pitches, wash shirts, clean out dressing rooms and dug-outs, fundraise etc, these are the people who are liable for the fine. Not the non-committed players.
Surely the Mayo League should try and work around the GAA Championship.
One option would be by putting fixtures on in those ’free weekends.’
Fining clubs shouldn’t even be a last resort.
Perhaps this is something the new Mayo League Chairman, Seamus Hughes, could tackle.

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