Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Restricting moves to the Big Apple is a cheap option that we can't afford

By Declan Bogue

We were somewhere between Magheramason and Bready last Saturday when the phone pinged with a message.

Less than two hours after Down had exited this year's All-Ireland Championship, I received a text from a friend with American connections, seeking the mobile phone number of one of Down's most valued players.

The Yanks were going to make a move.

I confess to a tinge of envy.

A player of the calibre we are talking about could expect a nice couple of months ahead of him should he take up the offer. A smart, furnished apartment, possibly sharing with some team mates recently-recruited from the flotsam and jetsam of the qualifier series would be the start of it.

A cushy job may await them on a building site; attendance at that job may not be strictly necessary.

More than likely, he will have been handed a nice chunk wad of dollar bills on arrival that will get him through the first few weeks in any case.

A lot of children who grow up playing Gaelic games have these fantasies.

Stories would be bought back to every parish and club of the lifestyles 'over there', of the football and hurling in Gaelic Park, the Bronx that would produce blood and heroism and a trove of anecdotes.

Here lies the internal struggle though.

In our more reflective periods, we are delighted that we belong to a communist-like association, revelling in our cherished amateur status.

Yet when a player departs for a summer in the states, very few outside of his clubmates will say anything other than, 'fair play to him, might as well see a bit of the world and sure if he gets a few bob, good enough.'

We are able to adopt hardline positions on the issue of broken-time payments which high-profile managers have recently called for, before the recent Carlow and Laois Friday night qualifier tie. it endangers the ethos, we feel. Last week, the GAA flew a kite with some strong ideas on restricting non-students from playing in the New York Championship.

In an era of failing economy and political corruption, this is mean-spirited and short-sighted. Who it serves, nobody knows.

In the past, several managers have complained about players going to America for the summer, as if their entire lives should be devoted to giving themselves over mind, body and soul to what is essentially their hobby.

One even went as far as to ludicrously describe it as a 'cancer on the game.'

Until expectations are increased in mid-to-lower tier counties, they will continue to lose players.

That's just life. When was the last time you heard of a player leaving the Tyrone, Donegal, Dublin, Kerry or Cork panel to play football in America for the summer?

Some counties are undoubtedly weakened by player departures, but to restrict transfer to New York is a bad move.

To do so would be cheap and mean, something we cannot afford to be right now.

Belfast Telegraph

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