Westmeath clubs call for automatic promotion for Christy Ring winners

Story by Kieran Galvin

Tuesday, 23rd December, 2008 11:00am

A motion calling for the winners of the Christy Ring Cup to be given automatic promotion to the Liam McCarthy Cup (tier one hurling championship) was passed at the Westmeath GAA Convention in Ballymore last Saturday night.

The motion, which was tabled by Brownstown, demands that the winners of the lower tier hurling championships at inter-county level gain automatic promotion to the next highest championship, and the bottom team in each respective championship be relegated to the next lowest championship. The motions calls for this be introduced for a trial period of two years.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Billy Foley (Brownstown) noted that, after winning the Christy Ring Cup in 2007, Westmeath still had to take part in the second tier competition in 2008, and he said teams need to be given 'an incentive' to make progress.

Supporting the motion, Christy Austin (Clonkill) said the GAA are 'monkeying around' with the second tier hurling counties. He said the Christy Ring Cup had been introduced by 'a football man' (former GAA president Sean Kelly), adding that 'a hurling man' (current GAA president Nickey Brennan) had since taken the final of the competition out of Croke Park. Mr Austin said the views of second tier hurling counties should be 'conveyed to the powers-that-be'.

Maryland proposed that a committee be formed 'to examine the workings of the school coaching scheme and 'also the way it is financed'. Moving the motion, Richard Browne (Maryland) said that the scheme should not be compulsory for all clubs and he argued that the money accruing to the GAA from the opening up of Croke Park to other sports should go towards paying for the scheme.

In response, Westmeath GAA chairman Tom Farrell said the county board would look at how the scheme is financed.

Clonkill proposed that the county board 'appoint a sub committee to identify suitable candidates who may be willing to train as referees'. Christy Austin said former high profile referee Paddy Collins could be involved in this process. The county chairman said that work is underway in this area and that a committee will be set up.

Another motion from Clonkill called for more use to be made of the RTE Aertel service to update fixtures and results. Christy Austin stated that the Westmeath fixtures and results were 'lagging behind by months in some cases' during the past year.

In reply, Pat Reilly (PRO) said he had been in contact with RTE about this problem. Tom Farrell stated that results must be sent to the PRO by 8pm on Sunday evenings to be published in the national papers on Mondays.

Clonkill also proposed that the county board request Croke Park to put a scheme in place to compensate players who sustain permanent injuries, in addition to the existing player injury scheme. Christy Austin said that a young man from his club picked up a serious injury this year, which is likely to leave him incapacitated for the rest of his life.

Pat Lynagh (county secretary) said there is provision for permanent disability and injuries at present, adding that there is also a hardship fund which is administered at central level.

Central Council delegate Liam Martin revealed that there is 'a major problem' with the current player injury scheme. 'It"s losing €1.8 million annually and we"re taking out three times more than we are putting in,' he said.

Mr Martin noted that in the current recessionary times, match attendances are likely to fall and, if this happens, the scheme is headed for 'major trouble'. He suggested that clubs who are putting money into the scheme should look at the 'huge physio bills' they are paying. Stating that the costs are 'astronomical', he said clubs should try to arrange better deals regarding physiotherapy services.

A motion from St Mary"s, Rochfortbridge, that all underage football competitions in Westmeath up to and including minor grade shall play under modified rules with a player allowed just one hop and one solo before being required to release the ball was ruled out of order. However, Michael O"Sullivan (St Mary"s) was still allowed to speak on the motion and he said playing under these modified rules has been used in Kerry. In response, Tom Farrell said the county cannot change the playing rules that are in the Official Guide, but added that it may be possible to do something in this area up to under-14 level.

Southern Gaels proposed that all underage finals in hurling and football be played in Cusack Park, unless by mutual consent of the fixtures committee and the clubs involved.

Moving the motion, Declan Hickey (Southern Gaels) said his club believes all underage finals should be played in 'the flagship facility of Westmeath GAA'. Accepting that the fixtures committee has a difficult job, Mr Hickey said the GAA often struggles in urban areas in comparison to other sports, whose top facilities are more readily available to young players.

Tom Farrell said the motion was 'very valid' but stressed that Cusack Park could only be available 'where possible'. Pat Lynagh stated it would not be possible to play every underage final in Cusack Park and stressed that the current usage of Westmeath GAA headquarters is 'massive'.

Ballycomoyle proposed that all ladies football finals be played at 'a prime time' in Cusack Park. In response, Tom Farrell said this could not be guaranteed. Ladies Football Association president Geraldine Giles (who had addressed delegates earlier) said this issue was a problem throughout the country. She admitted it may not always be possible to play ladies county finals in Cusack Park, but added that if the Ladies Football Association can liaise more effectively with the GAA, ladies football may get a better share of facilities.

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