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London the real victims of Seanie Johnston rule

 

 

The Seanie Johnston Rule should have been named after the great, heaving city by the Thames rather than a single Cavan man.

 

Because here’s the thing: London are going to suffer far more from the rule that says you must have played club championship football before you can play for your county.

 

In Kildare – the previous centre of this storm – they have a round of championship games fixed for May 18-20, which is long before the Lilies play Offaly in quarter-final of the Leinster SFC on June 17.

 

In London – now in the eye of this destructive hurricane – up to 12 players could be lost to the county unless the club SFC gets going before the Connacht Championship match against Leitrim on June 3.

 

There will be an emergency meeting of the London County Board tomorrow night (Wednesday), where they will ask clubs to agree to a round of championship games on the weekend of May 19/20.

 

Like a lot of people who’ve watched the early season games, I know some clubs – if not most of them – are patently not ready for top-level football. They are waiting on old players to return, new players to sign up and, as a collective, are not near full fitness yet. Why would they be? They are planning towards July – the advertised start of the championship.

 

Now those clubs are essentially being asked to come to the rescue of the county, in some cases sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

 

There is an element in London who have little time for the county side. They prefer the immediacy and cut and thrust of the club scene over the county, who, against tall odds, rarely win games.

 

You hear different versions of how big or small that element is – now we are about to find out the precise dimensions.

 

Through no fault of their own, the clubs are in a bind. You could see why many wouldn’t want to play the first round of SFC fixtures on May 19/20.

 

But it is crucial that they vote for the championship to go ahead early, and therefore save the county panel from decimation – inflicted by off-the-wall GAA rulemakers.

 

If you’re looking for a reason, you could point out that the county panellists have been training hard and clocking up serious miles through the winter to make sure they are as good as they can be on June 3.

 

That’s an entirely valid reason.

 

A more compelling one, however, is that a county that cannot unite behind a county team is really at nothing. A place where the club rules over the county is a divided territory of overblown rivalries where people are fixated on the small picture, never even contemplating the bigger one.

 

In a functional place, if you excel with a club you get picked for the county panel and can then test yourself against the game’s best players.

 

Nobody is saying the London set-up has been perfect over the years, but it has been manned by a lot of talented and selfless people, who have fought the unglamorous fight and made progress where they could.

 

Last summer, the exploits of the London senior footballers put the county on the map, or at least made the rest of the map take notice.

 

It could be that there were some people voting on the ‘Johnston rule’ at congress who saw a bit of collateral damage to London as a bonus; try and stem the tide to Britain.

 

If that’s the case, they should be ashamed. Young men and women come here not for football but for the same reasons they always have: to find work.

 

If they want to play football here, and are good enough to test themselves against the cream of what’s at home then they should be allowed to do that, because London isn’t just a great heaving city, it’s a county too – something the GAA rulemakers chose to overlook when they were tinkering with the text.

 

Now it’s down to the clubs to stand up for their county; stand for what’s right and fair.

 

 

*See tomorrow’s print edition of the Irish Post for a hard-hitting interview with London captain Sean McVeigh, who describes the prospect of London losing up to 12 players at the hands of this rule as ‘disgraceful’.

 

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Ronan Early
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Ronan Early is Sports Editor and columnist with The Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @RonanEarly

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