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Ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is on hand to clear GAA club's fine for holding soccer school

By Frank Brownlow

Jamie Carragher has stepped in to pay the controversial fine handed down by the GAA to a club that helped stage one of the former Liverpool skipper's soccer schools.

Dromard - a Co Longford GAA club - were fined €2,000 for allowing their grounds to be used to host one of Carragher's schools last August.

Dromard GAA club's appeal against the fine has been ruled out of order because it was submitted last week outside the three-day window allowed for in the GAA rule book.

The club took the three-day window to be three 'working' days but it is in fact three days from the date and time of notification.

It is believed Carragher - a leading television pundit since his retirement three years ago - has been updated regularly on developments and with the appeal route now exhausted, his school are prepared to pay the fine.

When news of the penalty broke 11 days ago, Carragher's school issued a statement outlining that they would meet "to discuss what assistance it can offer to the club concerned".

The GAA's Management Committee brought the case against Dromard under rule 5.1 which governs the use of Association property and originally proposed a  €3,000 penalty before Central Hearings Committee reduced it.

A local soccer club from nearby Cavan, UCL AFC, hosted the three-day event.

Carragher's soccer school coached more than 200 children at the event, supervised by 10 coaches.

The 38-year-old enjoyed a glittering career with Liverpool and England, the highlight being the Reds' famous 2005 Champions League triumph against AC Milan in Istanbul, when the Anfield side came back from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3 and lift the trophy after a penalty shoot-out.

The Jamie Carragher Soccer School, which has been running since the central defender's retirement, was held at the Dromard club last August.

Dromard argued that the 3G pitch on which the summer school took place is a community resource, but as club property it is vested in the GAA.

The club are also said to be unhappy as the rule in question is suspected of being widely disregarded around the country.

According to the CHC, however, Dromard admitted the infraction and were fined €2,000, a reduction on what the Management Committee had initially proposed.

This move by Croke Park may signal that the rule in question is about to be more rigorously enforced, something that could have consequences for many clubs given the revenue streams that would be affected.

The GAA has been criticised in some quarters for the pursuit of the case, which is the first of its kind to be taken against a club, with several of those critics questioning the fine in the context of the money raised by hosting other sports such as soccer and rugby - as well as concerts - in Croke Park, the GAA's state-of-the-art venue in Dublin.

Carragher was famed for his whole-hearted approach as a player and his no-holds-barred punditry has gone down well on Sky Sports, where he teamed up with former Manchester United rival Gary Neville to great critical acclaim, the latter now having departed the studio to manage Valencia in Spain.

In 2002, Carragher escaped an FA misconduct charge - although he was fined £40,000 by his club - for throwing a coin at Arsenal fans during an FA Cup tie. Carragher hurled a pound coin back into the crowd after it was thrown at him.

This latest intervention will certainly be good for Carragher's image and comes at a time when his Sky Sports employers are stepping up their coverage of GAA.

It's a welcome boost for Dromard in the current climate when funding, particularly at grassroots level, can be hard to come by. What view the GAA hierarchy takes is another matter altogether but there is surely little they can do if the fine is paid.

Just like in his playing days, it's Jamie Carragher to the rescue.

Belfast Telegraph

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