McBrearty attends Kennelly's AFL recruitment camp


DONEGAL’S PATRICK McBrearty and a host of other underage Gaelic footballers are live targets for Australian Football League recruitment having attended Tadhg Kennelly’s camp at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght yesterday.

McBrearty, who played senior and minor championship matches against Antrim on the same day last May, was joined by some of the GAA’s most talented teenagers.

Others put through their paces with the oval ball included Dublin dual stars Ciarán Kilkenny – already targeted by the Carlton Blues – and Emmet Ó Conghaile. Dublin’s Jack McCaffrey was also present along with Tipperary’s minor All-Ireland winners Ian Fahy and Michael Quinlivan. Others seeking a professional AFL contract are Kildare’s Seán Hurley, Emmett Bradley of Derry, Eoin Carroll from Offaly, Muiris Bartley from Cork and Armagh’s Conor Gough.

Kennelly, the only man to win both an All-Ireland medal (with Kerry in 2009) and AFL Premiership medallion (with the Sydney Swans in 2005), was appointed to an ambassadorial role by the AFL last December. The GAA were not made aware of yesterday’s gathering in Tallaght.

“In relation to Tadhg Kennelly’s appointment, Andrew Demetriou [AFL chief executive] would have been in contact with Páraic Duffy,” McGill said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve had any further formal communications with them. If they want to inform us [about recruitment camps] as a matter of courtesy that’s fine but it is nothing to do with us. Same goes for soccer or rugby signing up fellas who are playing GAA, they don’t tell us either.”

GAA president Christy Cooney also said he knew nothing about the camp. “I have gone through this whole rigmarole about Australia before and I don’t mean that in a negative way but we have only a handful of players playing in Australia and if people want to play Australian Rules or play professionally, they have that right and we would never stand in their way.

“That right is open to any player in any code, whether it is rugby, soccer, AFL, whatever it is, they have that right and if they get a career out of it we wish them the best of luck. We can’t stand in any players way if they want to play an international game and we should never try.”

Meanwhile, the GAA have rejected a Government proposal to phase out alcohol sponsorship of sport by 2016.

A report by the National Substance Misuse Steering Group, chaired by Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer in the Department of Health, has devised a strategy to restrict advertising of alcohol with new legislation. Guinness is one of three main sponsors of the GAA inter-county hurling championship.

“Our position on alcohol sponsorship has been fairly consistent,” explained Fergal McGill, GAA operations manager. “It has a very positive role, we’ve only ever had one alcohol sponsor, Guinness, but when the product is advertised responsibility we don’t have any major objection to it.

“By responsibly we mean not targeting young people, or the alco-pop market, that’s where we’d have issue.”

The steering group’s majority report, published on February 7th, recommends a ban on all alcohol sponsorship of sporting and large outdoor events, a ban on outdoor advertising of alcohol, higher excise duties on some alcohol products and the introduction of minimum pricing.

“Guinness have been tremendous partners with the GAA for many years,” McGill said. “Our opinion, very simply, is we have no issue with alcohol sponsorship so long as it is responsibly done. We’d be anxious that it would be retained. It is a complicated topic. You can’t just say all alcohol sponsorship is bad and therefore I wouldn’t agree with it being stopped. There are controls in place.”

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar, along with fellow ministers Pat Rabbitte, Jimmy Deenihan and Simon Coveney, has already expressed concerns about the proposed restrictions.

Finally, Cooney, now entering the last few weeks of his presidency, conceded yesterday there is a possibility of counties being docked league points as a more severe deterrent to collective acts of violence. This was in reference to the €5,000 fines handed out to Kildare and Monaghan following a melee during the recent national football league encounter.

“I think that might come. If the deterrent that is put in place now by the CCCC, if that doesn’t get the required response from counties, I think maybe the CCCC will have to look at it in another way.”