Belfast Telegraph

Declan Bogue: Little wonder PSNI GAC enthusiasm on the wane

Peadar Heffron, who survived an attempt on his life when a bomb exploded under his car, in action for the PSNI football side in 2006
Peadar Heffron, who survived an attempt on his life when a bomb exploded under his car, in action for the PSNI football side in 2006
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

The news that the PSNI GAA club is in danger of folding is an interesting one because it throws up more questions than answers.

It is understood that the club were in the infancy of planning a pitch for Gaelic Games at the Newforge Sports Complex, but the revelations would definitely throw any plans into disarray.

The end of 50/50 recruitment in 2011 is being held up as a reason for this, but that is a view that ignores the reality for any sporting or games organisation.

A police source has commented, “Moving into 2020, it is hard to see any future for the club.

“Many players intend to retire – many members of the committee will walk away due to the frustrations of regularly being unable to field a team and the lack of support from within the PSNI.”

The frustrations appear to originate with an ability to play games. In the past, they have had challenge matches against the Gardai and other emergency services teams.

However, given the nature of the work, with irregular shift patterns and a limited opportunity to play, it’s little wonder that enthusiasm is on the wane.

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Will the GAA be concerned? It’s hard to see it.

The club scene right now is as healthy as it has ever been and any messages of support will only amount to that. Essentially, they cannot demand any serving members of the PSNI to join the GAA club.

If they wished to provide a regular games programme, the PSNI GAA club could apply for affiliation to a county board, but again, it is hard to see that happening.

At the very heart of this lies two key elements. The GAA is about pride of place and an identity in a community. The PSNI does not have a GAA identity and it will always elude them until it competes regularly. But doing so would cause the obvious and critical security risk.

And, the GAA is a bottom-up organisation. Players are born into their clubs, not a place of work.

Throughout Ulster, there are a certain number of serving police officers who still play Gaelic Games. Naturally, there is a great deal of discretion over this after the brutal bomb attack on former player, Peadar Heffron.

In an ideal world, players should be able to play for their own home clubs without any attention paid to their employment.

Like a lot of things however, this is more than one generation off.

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