GAA move to improve lot of the losers


The GAA will consider presenting losing All-Ireland finalists with their runners-up medals on the pitch on the day of the finals. GAA president Joe McDonagh floated the idea at yesterday's reception for Sunday's football finalists which was held in Dublin.

"We will be giving due consideration to the involvement of the losers," said McDonagh in his address to the Meath and Cork teams. "The opportunity of presenting the runners-up medals on the day is down for due consideration."

The presentation of the winners' medals on the day is not envisaged. McDonagh made it clear that this would not be in order as it would upstage the official county board presentation function at the end of the year. Up until now, it has also been the custom for losing teams to have their medals presented at their own county board functions.

Victorious Meath manager Sean Boylan has sympathy for the new, mooted presentation format. "Croke Park on the final whistle can be the loneliest place in the world for the losers. We have experienced it. You feel terrible, my heart goes out to them no matter who it is."

Tommy Dowd, a loser in 1990 and '91, said that he could empathise with the losers in this respect and would be in favour of them receiving their medals on the pitch. Regarding his brief cameo at the end of Sunday's match, Dowd was just happy to be part of his county's success. "I didn't even get my hands on the ball, but once we won I wouldn't worry about that." RTE man of the match Mark O'Reilly was keen to emphasise Sean Boylan's role in the team's success and he also spoke of the importance of the Dunboyne man continuing as manager.

"The players will demand that he stays on for another season. It would be a strange Meath team without him," said O'Reilly. The Meath manager, the longest-serving in the game, finished his 17th season in charge of the team with his fourth All-Ireland on Sunday. The job has become an integral part of his life. "It's like going to work. It becomes part of what you do," said Boylan yesterday.

Boylan, who was given a standing ovation by over 500 guests yesterday, reflected on his career to date. "We were a long time trying to learn the ropes early on. We have been lucky. Some of the lads didn't play in '96, but it's great to see new lads coming along carrying on the torch."

McDonagh also commended Boylan's work and the manner in which he has orchestrated Meath's football players over an "extraordinary length of time".

The president also congratulated Cork manager Larry Tompkins on his success in nurturing a young team of Cork players. He said that the National League win and Sunday's All-Ireland final day experience were stepping stones for his young side to the future.

Sean O hAilpin, who missed out on his second All-Ireland medal in a fortnight, said that he "fully understands now the way Kilkenny players felt."

He refused to comment on whether he would be prepared to play both hurling and football next year.

Paddy Walsh, Croke Park's head groundsman, could easily claim overtime this year as, because of the rain, he had to line the pitch for Sunday no fewer than three time.

"I marked the lines per usual on Saturday morning, but by that afternoon they had almost been washed away," he said. He repeated the job on Saturday afternoon, but by Sunday morning the rain had washed them off again and he had to do it a third time.

The Meath team, to a man, yesterday declared themselves available to play against great rivals Dublin in the annual GOAL Challenge match in Navan tomorrow (5.30).

With Dublin manager Tom Carr fielding the sort of team he will be banking on for success in the National League, tomorrow's match should draw a big crowd to Meath's home base.

Carr is using the occasion to introduce two newcomers to intercounty football - full back Bill O'Toole and Trinity Gaels wing forward Mervyn Forde. Also included in the Dublin line-up is Jason Sherlock at left corner forward.

The proceeds will go to the East Timor fund.

The Offaly county board has appointed a three-man committee consisting of chairman Brendan Ward, secretary Christy Todd and assistant secretary Tony Murphy to deal with the appointment of a new manager for the county's hurling team following the shock resignation of Michael Bond last Friday. Galwayman Bond, a Loughrea-based school principal, resigned for personal reasons. Bond was appointed as team manager last August, 12 months after the resignation of Babs Keating and Offaly went on to win the All-Ireland.

DUBLIN: D Byrne; M Casey, B O'Toole, P Christie; P Croft, P Andrews, K Galvin; C Whelan, E Sheehy; M Forde, J Gavin, M O'Keeffe; S O'Connell, D Darcy, J Sherlock.