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Joe Kernan: Ruislip debacle proves London safaris are losing appeal

Time was when a team from Ulster or indeed any other part of the country relished going over to London to fulfil a fixture in either the All-Ireland Club quarter-final football or hurling championships. Not any more, I’m afraid.

Last weekend Crossmaglen Rangers made what I believe was their fourth safari to London in the last 12 years and from virtually every aspect it proved the least memorable trip.

The Ruislip surface, on which a hurling match had taken place just 24 hours earlier, bore only scant resemblance to the fine pitches we have in our own province now — indeed, it was scarcely playable.

And while referee Michael Duffy was flown over from his Sligo base to take charge of the match, it did not help that the umpires and linesmen were all drawn from the London Board.

This, to my mind, dilutes the status of an All-Ireland club quarter-final. Surely better arrangements could have been made than this or was the GAA bending over backwards to trim costs?

In addition, Neasdon Gaels appeared to be rather too preoccupied with containment rather then focusing on positive play.

Perhaps it would be too strong to say it was a war of attrition but had fans here in Ulster paid in to watch what was on offer I am convinced that would have been seeking a refund of their money citing the Trade Descriptions Act in the process.

There are lessons to be learned from last Sunday’s exercise — lessons that must be implemented in the future if the All-Ireland series is not to become diluted.

I know that GAA President Christy Cooney has said that the club is at the very heart of the GAA — but it certainly did not quite feel like that at Ruislip.

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