Brennan leaps to defence of eligibility rules
GAELIC GAMES:The new rules governing eligibility for higher education competitions are fair, according to former GAA president Nickey Brennan, who chaired the committee that introduced them.
There has been criticism this week of the provision that restricts players to six years and two different or non-cognate (unconnected) academic courses.
Brennan believes the rule, which was recommended in a wide-ranging report on Gaelic games in higher education published in 2011, was carefully considered and intended to address concerns in the sector.
“I’ve had a lot of experience of the third-level scene,” he said, “and was on the CAO as a delegate from management before I was president. I was asked to chair the Higher Education Review Committee and we produced a report with a lot of proposals. This was one of them.
“There was concern that with extended academic cycles some players were looking around, naturally enough in the current circumstances, for additional courses and that a fairer balance had to be brought to the system because not all colleges are in a position to offer the same range of courses.
“Was the sort of situation which happened this week envisaged when we drew up the rule? Absolutely. And it was felt it was the right thing to do.”
The impact of the rule was definitively felt this week when two of DCU’s inter-county players, Cork All Star Aidan Walsh and All-Ireland champions Donegal reserve goalkeeper Michael Boyle, had rulings of ineligibility upheld by the GAA’s arbitration tribunal, the Disputes Resolution Authority.
Walsh was held to have completed two courses in Cork IT despite having left the first one just shortly into the 2008-09 academic year.
The rule states that for a course to be discounted an individual must have de-registered by October of the freshman year, which Walsh did not do – and at the time would not have been obliged to.
“It was unfair, the way they were treated,” DCU’s Dr Niall Moyna said after Wednesday’s victory over Queen’s Belfast, in which neither Walsh nor Boyle could play.
“That young man is going out to teach physical education and I certainly won’t be encouraging him to promote Gaelic games, and I mean that. In my classes from now on I have no intention of promoting Gaelic games.”
The retrospective application of this rule was challenged at the DRA but the committee hearing the matter decided not to uphold that argument even though it hadn’t been raised when the matter was first heard by the CA and then on appeal to the Central Appeals Committee.
Walsh has stated that he hopes to be in a position to play next year if there is a reconsideration of the rules.
The rule in question was introduced to deal only with Division One colleges, and so an anomalous situation could arise where a player could play for the footballers and not the hurlers or vice versa.
Walsh for instance might well have found himself in that position had DCU not returned to Division One hurling, in which case he would have been prohibited from playing Sigerson Cup but would have been able to compete for the hurlers in the Ryan Cup.
Brennan is adamant the new eligibility rule was intended to act just as it has, but he also makes the point that the rule – which was originally passed by a narrow margin – can be deleted or amended if there is a view within the colleges at large that it is unfair.
“The proposals were specifically intended to come in after 12 months but it was accepted that the rule would apply retrospectively from then on. The DRA has upheld the rule, which reflects the amount of work contributed when it was drawn up.
“If, however, there is unhappiness at how this is operating, it’s up to someone within the third-level sector to bring in an amendment to the rule.”