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Letterkenny Gaels hit out at ‘serious player welfare’ issue around Minor League play-off

General GAA
BY CHRIS MCNULTY

THE Letterkenny Gaels club has raised a ‘serious player welfare issue’ over the scheduling of a Minor League play-off last month.

Letterkenny Gaels minors were forced to fulfil their Northern Board Minor League Division 1 play-off against Naomh Colmcille at 1pm on Wednesday, April 16, with several players only returning from a week-long school trip to China during the fixture.

Seven players from the Gaels’ squad were in China as part of a St Eunan’s College school trip and club officials traveled to Dublin to provide transport for the players to arrive back for the game, played on the second pitch at O’Donnell Park.

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The fixture had already been subject to an inquiry by the Donegal Hearings Committee. Letterkenny Gaels and Naomh Colmcille finished joint top of their section.

The Northern Board ruled that Naomh Colmcille would advance as group winners because of their greater points difference but Letterkenny Gaels lodged a successful appeal because walkover victories had been awarded for games against Naomh Padraig, Lifford.

At 12noon on Saturday, April 12, the clubs were notified that the play-off was scheduled for the Wednesday afternoon.

“We were given the minimum notice, 97 hours in fact, of the game and we wished the game to be fixed for a traditional evening time of 6.30,” Letterkenny Gaels delegate Jim McGlynn told Tuesday night’s meeting of the county committee in Ballybofey.

“We followed this up in an email. The club is concerned by how we have been treated by the Northern Board in relation to the game.”

Although schools were closed for Easter holidays on that week, Letterkenny Gaels voiced serious reservations about the circumstances the players in question found themselves in.

Five of the players came on as subs, but Naomh Colmcille won the game 4-10 to 2-12.

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Mr McGlynn said: “I myself left work early and arrived at the venue to see players jumping out of cars to get togged out for a game that was started. We fielded a weakened team and we lost out. I would be concerned that this could now be seen as a precedent.

“This presented huge problems for the club.

“We touch on player welfare at every opportunity here, but these players shouldn’t have been placed in this position. It is a serious player welfare issue.

“It ended up being a deserted game as family members and other supporters were working at the time of the game.”

After losing the play-off, Letterkenny Gaels went through as group runners-up and were beaten by St Eunan’s in the quarter-finals.

Children’s Officer Mick McGrath said he had been made aware of the matter in an email from Letterkenny Gaels.

“I spoke with Peter Maloney (Northern Board Secretary) and advised him that the Northern Board should review the decision,” Mr McGrath said.

“Unless both teams agreed to the 1 o’clock throw-in I advised him that it should take place at a uniformed time of 6.30. He didn’t come back to me on it.”

Mr McGrath confirmed that he will raise the matter with Northern Board representatives at a meeting scheduled for next week.

County Board now searching for a replacement.

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