Wednesday 23 May 2018

Curveball: Third-level image gets an 'F' grade

Stephen Kilcoyne, UCD, in action against Darren Moran, GMIT. Independent.ie Sigerson Cup Quarter-Final, UCD v GMIT, UCD, Belfeld, Dublin
Stephen Kilcoyne, UCD, in action against Darren Moran, GMIT. Independent.ie Sigerson Cup Quarter-Final, UCD v GMIT, UCD, Belfeld, Dublin

WE doubt if Oscar Wilde was a GAA fan, let alone a devotee of higher-education football and hurling, and not just because he died in 1900.

Yet one of Oscar's most famous epigrams springs to mind today: "To lose one appeal may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

Okay, so we're taking a slight liberty; he said "parent", not appeal. Yet the parent body of higher education GAA - Comhairle Ardoideachais or CA - finds itself in an unflattering spotlight this week after seeing one of its rulings overturned by Croke Park's Central Appeals Committee (CAC).

A misfortune? Perhaps. Except this ruling came just over a week after two earlier CA decisions relating to the same match were also overturned by the CAC.

Confused by all the CAs and CACs? Never mind the acronyms, try steering your way through the eligibility maze that has now disrupted both the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups.

This column boasts no particular knowledge of (or interest in) said eligibility rules, what constitutes a "full-time" student, et cetera ad nauseam.

Nor is our every waking hour consumed by which college is shaping up well; or which of them has assembled the greatest array of marquee inter-county names.

We suspect many GAA followers harbour a similar take-it-or-leave-it approach and only get exercised when their own county is compelled to play against (rather than with) its own student stars in January ... or when those players end up injured or burnt out by their hectic college/county February schedule.

Notwithstanding all the above, we can see merit in third-level football and hurling: because of the exposure to high-quality competition and also because - well - the players enjoy it so where's the harm?


Here's the problem, though: for many outsiders looking in, the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups are as much about player eligibility rows as they are about the actual games.

This year has been a bad one for the image of the higher education game - and also those who oversee it. Again, we don't wish to bore you with the regurgitated details ... suffice to say, both IT Sligo and Queens were initially ejected from Sigerson after CA found them to have played ineligible players against each other, but both successfully appealed these rulings and, thus, Sligo advanced as winners.

Another week, another saga: this time an IT Carlow hurler deemed ineligible by CA after an objection from Mary I of Limerick, whose players went to bed on Wednesday preparing for a Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final - and woke up yesterday to discover they were out after a successful appeal (by Carlow) to CAC.

As a result, two quarter-finals fixed for yesterday were postponed - via a 2am email. Talk about being left in the dark.

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