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Now police may join GAA league

Handshake: PSNI captain Peadar Heffron (left) and St Brigid's captain Stephen Morrisey. Top: The teams in action last night

Handshake: PSNI captain Peadar Heffron (left) and St Brigid's captain Stephen Morrisey. Top: The teams in action last night





BY MICHAEL McHUGH

THE Police Service of Northern Ireland could enter a team in the Gaelic Athletic Association's club league as early as next season, it emerged last night.

Superintendent Gerry Murray was speaking after the police team played its first match last night against a GAA club.

A Sinn Fein representative's son, Joe Brolly, was among the St Brigid's team to face the police.

Mr Murray said: "Today is a small but significant step from the point of view that it's an historic event which builds on the abandonment of Rule 21."

The GAA abolished its bar on the security forces participating in this sport, Rule 21, in 2001.

The step was seen as controversial and followed radical reforms of the police force heralded under the Patten Review.

The PSNI team has been playing for the past four years, mainly against police from the Irish Republic and private companies.

They have yet to play a competitive match but boast a panel of 30-35 players.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton attended last night's game at the Harlequins ground in south Belfast, while Mr Brolly's father Francie is a Sinn Fein Assembly man.

There remains opposition to accepting a police team within the GAA but Mr Murray said the service had moved on and it was up to others to do the same.

"We know there are some people who disapprove of the police being involved in the GAA but we have moved on, we are into 21st century policing and we, like any other individuals, should be allowed to participate."

St Brigid's play in the third club division. Manager Conor MacSherry said it was just another game.

"We have 30 players on the panel tonight and we rarely would have as big a number," he said.

St Brigid's captain Peadar Heffron shook hands with the PSNI captain Stephen Morrissey before the game started.

Several hundred people, including many families, attended the challenge match, which was a friendly. St Brigid's won the game, scoring 4 goals and 17 points to the police's 1 goal and 8 points, equivalent to a 29-12 points victory.


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