SCOTLAND GAA (above) are preparing to launch a spirited defence of the All-Ireland Junior Football Championships following comments by Kerry legend and Gaelic football pundit Pat Spillane.
Spillane used his newspaper column to dismiss the competition and spoke of his pleasure at the 2020 edition falling victim to Covid-19. His comments, however, have drawn criticism from club players who gain the opportunity to represent their county at that level and particularly from players in Britain for whom the competition is chance to play quality football for their counties.
Speaking in the Sunday World he said: “I’m delighted… that the All Ireland Junior Football Championship has been abandoned in 2020. Hopefully it will remain consigned to the dustbin.”
His dismissive words about a tournament which provides both a lifeline and target for Gaelic footballers in Britain were criticised by Scotland GAA, who said they were ‘very disappointed’ in his call, and reminded him that his own county ‘has benefited from this competition.’
Spillane’s own nephew picked up a winner’s medal in 2016, with Kerry again victorious in last year’s final having travelled to Scotland and emerged victorious in a match with our county on their route to the trophy.
Scotland GAA Chairman Peter Mossey spoke of the county board’s vociferous defence of the competition, which is facing challenges from some counties due to the running sore of fixture congestion, which has plagued all levels of the GAA for years.
According to Mr Mossey, any attempt to make the GAA in Britain pay the price as part of the solution will meet a strong response from this side of the Irish Sea.
“This proposal will be robustly resisted,” he said. “This competition and others like it are the lifeblood of Gaelic games in Britain, the value of which cannot be measured in pounds, shillings and pence.
“We must continue to incentivise our players, and create role models for our youth.”
The competition has been a fruitful one for counties such as London, Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire in the past, with all having reached finals and London able to boast six titles.
However, their last title came in 1986, and since 1995 All-Britain Champions have had only a losing record in the competition.
Last year Kerry underlined the mammoth task facing sides from these shores in going up against the junior county sides from Ireland as they delivered a thumping performance in Clydebank and put Scotland to the sword.
Despite this, though, the competition is the best chance for sides here to test themselves against quality inter county sides and provides a real goal for players at the beginning of each season.
In Ireland, too, it offers a valuable opportunity to pull on county colours.
With the British provincial championship facing problems in recent years, the removal of a route into All-Ireland competition would create further problems.
Those in the GAA in Britain are hoping that common sense prevails and the value that the GAA claims to place on the association outside Ireland is shown in the opportunities it continues to offer to the counties, clubs and players on its own doorstep.