Galway clubs flex muscles in bid to get fair play for county teams

THE green light has been given by the grassroots of Galway GAA to the County Committee to start playing hard ball with the ‘powers that be’ in an effort to ensure all of the Tribesmen’s inter-county hurling teams are included in a single provincial structure – be that in Leinster or Munster.

Delegates unanimously endorsed the Liam Mellows motion, which was presented in three parts, to be brought to Congress next February and the mood of the meeting was very much that the time for talking was over as club representatives looked to pass the motion as swiftly as possible.

The first part of the Mellows proposal sought a change of rules allowing all of Galway’s inter-county hurling teams to compete in a single provincial structure. The second authorised Galway GAA to bring this motion to the annual GAA Congress. And the third further authorised Galway to immediately apply for admission into the Munster championship for all its teams.

In forwarding the submission, Liam Mellows’ Brian Keville stressed the proposal was not about securing additional finance or money for the county from provincial councils – or, indeed, even about home and away fixtures – but about the future of the game of hurling in Galway.

“Above anything else, this is a motion about a level playing field and fairness and giving our players the same opportunities that players in every other county have,” began Keville as he appealed to the clubs to support the motion and send “a very clear message”, “a very loud message” and a “very strong signal” to Croke Park that Galway were no longer going to put up with the current status quo.

“If any of our players in any of our clubs are good enough to be in a county minor team or a county minor panel when they are 17 years of age, and go from that onto U-21 panels for two or three years, in that three or four-year period they might only have five or six games,” he outlined.

“When they are 22, 23 or 24, playing senior inter-county hurling, they then are expected to compete against players who have played five inter-county games at minor and five inter-county games at U-21 . . . for every year they were playing at those grades!

“So, this is about giving our players an equal opportunity to have the same number of games at the highest level in the same way as players from other counties do. Now, the people in this room, the club representatives, can’t change the competition structure but what we can do is send a very clear and a very loud message that we are not going to put up with the current status quo any longer.”

The Mellows proposal received unilateral support from the delegates and among those to endorse it was former Galway great Tony Kilkenny, who said it was a privilege to second the motion.

“I feel strong about this, our club feels very strong about this and it is our chance to give a level playing field to everybody in Galway who plays minor, U-21 and the whole way up along,” he said.

Although believing Croke Park was on side, Chairman of the County Hurling Committee Michael Larkin insisted: “We cannot continue on as we are, basically getting one game or two games a year in those very important competitions, and it is now time for decisive action and that decisive action has to be taken and has to be taken by Galway people.”

Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune