Paul Brennan’s Bundoran move concerns Leitrim manager Shane Ward

‘I see it as a huge danger to our game in general, and it’s a real negative for football in Leitrim’

The now completed transfer of Leitrim footballer Paul Brennan to Donegal club Bundoran was "mooted" by both the club and the Donegal set-up, according to Leitrim manager Shane Ward.

The Melvin Gaels and Leitrim half-back had his move approved on Thursday, although it’s believed he has not relocated. Barring an initial “get together” with the Leitrim panel in October he had not been seen at any session since the training ban was lifted for the Connacht team in early November and has since confirmed he will not be committing for 2015.

Nearly three years after then Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney controversially announced the imminent transfer of Cavan footballer Seánie Johnston to the county, Ward has highlighted his concerns over the impact of such inter-county transfers.

“This is a major move after the Seánie Johnston episode and it could set a new precedent for just changing counties. It would have been common knowledge in Donegal that this was happening and I know that because I’m from there.

“I can confirm that this had been mooted between Paul and Bundoran, and with Donegal, from early on after Leitrim’s exit from last summer’s championship.”

Donegal GAA chairman Seán Dunnion has said that while the county have no existing policy on selecting players from outside of the county, they would not rule out the option.

It is believed that before applying for the transfer it was confirmed to Brennan that he would be given an opportunity with the Donegal panel, if playing for a Donegal club. Delays in the transfer are said to have been the result of the Ulster county's managerial reshuffle. Dunnion has staunchly denied both suggestions.

Donegal's newly-appointed manager Rory Gallagher, a Fermanagh native himself who transferred to Cavan for a spell during his own playing years for the Ernesiders, wished to make no comment on developments, although he did point to a potential obstacle for any new transfer with regards to the county's club fixtures.

While Brennan is now eligible to line out for Donegal this summer, he technically cannot do so until he has represented his new club in a championship match.

Last summer the Donegal club championship did not begin until September as the county board sought to accommodate the senior team’s All-Ireland ambitions, although the county board have now confirmed that no such format will actually be in place in 2015.

Leitrim has already lost main score-getter Emlyn Mulligan this summer after he opted to travel for the year.

“I would have been aware of the situation with Emlyn from very early and he was up front and honest about travelling for the year,” said Ward. “I knew from quite early on what was happening with Paul but had tried to persuade him of otherwise, but there was no swaying him after a number of attempts. I contacted him on numerous occasions and we had a number of different meetings.

“It is frustrating - Emlyn I understand and I look forward to his return, but with Paul I am very disappointed. I see it as a huge danger to our game in general, and it’s a real negative for football in Leitrim.”

So it would appear that if the versatile 24-year-old - described by former Leitrim footballer Colin Regan as a "high energy and physically strong player, well capable of mixing it" - impresses in the new year, he will certainly be given an opportunity to impact upon the Ulster champion's squad. If he does so, he won't be the first to have crossed the Donegal border and made the big switch.

Notably in the 1980's, Roscommon player Des Newton, from the Carrick-on-Shannon bordering Shannon Gaels club, transferred from his native county where he had won two Connacht senior championship titles to Donegal where he went on to win an Ulster title.

Other Connacht players who have since transferred to don the green and gold include Mayo's Pádraig Brogan in the 1990's and Galway man Frank Rushe.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a sports journalist with The Irish Times

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