Declan Bogue: Seanie Johnston could be biggest loser in transfer saga
Brace yourself, Bridget, for a deluge of opinion pieces on Seanie Johnston as we head into the middle of the week.
It’s in the margins that you will see the madness, the fury, the faux-outrage of those happy to be termed ‘traditionalists.’ The other wing will be populated by a bunch of Terry Try-Hards, affecting nonchalance over where a little fella from Cavan should play his county football, if indeed his transfer goes through.
It’s dangerous to take this case too personal and get wound up in the perceived injustices. The immediate concern though for all neutrals, should be in asking who does this move benefit, and why? Staying away completely from expressing a partisan viewpoint, there is no harm in examining the motivations of the key players.
There’s Seanie, as the subject. He was captain of Cavan in 2011, entrusted with the role because his manager Val Andrews, felt he could extract the maximum out of his most gifted forward. Their relationship went from there, to Andrews telling him last winter that he wasn’t needed.
For a time, that was the key reason Johnston had sought a transfer. The Cavan manager didn’t pick him. So when the Cavan manager stepped down, there was genuine hope that he might return.
Hardly. Evidently, Seanie felt that he and his talent had outgrown Cavan. Instead, he wanted to play for Kildare. When he was asked why, he talked about admiring their style of play, their manager, their selector and their physical trainer, the last two he met while studying at college.
He didn’t mention that it was because he was living in Kildare, because he wasn’t living in Kildare, and clearly still wasn’t even when he claimed he was.
You have to wonder who exactly is giving Johnston advice. Even when an apartment was located for him, it was in Straffan. So fine, you might say, go transfer to Straffan.
Instead, he transfers to another club a decent car journey away, which just so happens to be the club of the selector he praised.
Who does this serve to benefit? At the head of the food chain here is Kieran McGeeney, Kildare’s imported manager. During a recent interview the subject of the transfer was brought up and he had this to say; “I can say one thing about Seanie since the beginning of this, that he’s been honest. And that’s probably been his biggest mistake,” before going on to add, “He’s training away every night with us.”
The problem with those two lines are that the recorded letter that was sent to Johnston’s Straffan address from Croke Park was returned with ‘Not known at this address’. The issue of training with the Kildare team also leaves him uninsured for personal injury if he is not officially registered with the club or county.
As someone who has processed quite a few of these claims during a spell as club secretary, I should know.
While we are on the issue of honesty, it was noticeable that the interview did not bring up the subject of Shane Supple.
You might recall Supple leaving his professional soccer contract with Ipswich Town to return to his first love of GAA, but after leading his club St Brigid’s to a Dublin Championship, he took a phonecall from a member of the Kildare senior management asking if he would like to play for them, rather than trying to get his place on the Dublin team.
“The call was about playing for them but there’s only one county I’d be playing for. I shot it down quick enough”, he recounted back in February.
There are many consequences for the player in this case. If Kieran McGeeney goes throughout his fifth year as manager without a Leinster title, then it’s difficult to see him carrying on.
It’s unlikely that the support staff, with whom Johnston enjoys a rapport, will stay. What happens then, will Seanie go back to Cavan, or is he stuck in a limbo, continuing to present himself as a man who lives in Straffan and drives to Cavan every day for his work?
This issue has also driven a wedge in the county between the management and administrators, with a growing distaste for the affair.
The Sunday Game poll the other night said 52% of their Twitter correspondents felt that the issue is against the ethos of the GAA. Perhaps in Kildare that may be the case, but among rank and file GAA members who are not so in tune with social media, the figure would be much higher.
The question you have to ask yourself with a move of this nature, is where will everyone be, three years down the line. In the case of Seanie Johnston, you suspect he’s been taken for a ride.