Donegal GAA clubs are feeling the cold wind of the financial recession with players now bailing out in their droves to seek work in other parts of the world.
There numbers of players seeking transfers and summer sanctions is showing a dramatic increase and so far in 2012, just four months into the year, the figures are almost as high as the whole of last year, which in turn, were up on the previous year. Donegal panellists Kevin Mulhern, Peter Boyle and Eddie Kelly are three of those on the move.
In April alone, 50 players transferred away from the county, 23 on permanent transfers and 27 on summer sanctions. The transfers were approved at Tuesday night’s May County Committee meeting and bring the total for the year so far to 87 transfers, 54 permanent and 33 sanctions. The total for the whole of 2011 was 91, 60 permanent and 31 sanctions.
The transfers have reached such a level that one leading official in the county, Donegal GAA secretary, Aodh Mairtin O’ Fearraigh, has said that it is a cause for serious concern. He says the transfers are a serious drain on young talent in the county.
“It is very worrying. I accept that the first half of the year is the busiest time for transfers, especially sanctions, but when you look at the numbers and see that we have nearly as many at this stage of the year as as we had for the whole of last year, it’s not good,” O’ Fearraigh said.
“The only positive thing one can say about it is that the players going on sanctions are only doing so for two months and they will be back by the end of the summer at least.
“Another trend I have noticed in recent years and hopefully we will see it again at the end of this year, is that players who transfer away at the start of the year, transfer back again at the end of the season. The list for May is the longest one that I have seen in my five years on the executive and we still have months to go before the closing date for sanctions alone.”
Meanwhile, another county official, Children’s Officer Mick McGrath has expressed concerns about health and safety arising from the exodus as more and more clubs are forced to play underage players in adult competitions in order to survive and field teams.
“My main concern surrounds the impact it is having on younger players in clubs and underage players that are not ready for adult football being asked to play senior football before they are ready,” he said.
“Clubs are being forced to do this to survive. But these players have plenty of competition and games at their own age groups and are not physically ready for adult football. The matter does raise a definite health and safety issue.”
While less than a handful of the transfers are to clubs within Ireland, the vast majority are to the UK and Australia. All the summer sanctions are to the US and in particular to Boston and the Donegal and Galway clubs in the city.
Players transferring on sanction do so for the summer months and are mostly students. They can automatically play for their home club once they return as long as it is 60 days after their departure date.
Meanwhile with just a little over a week to go before Donegal minor footballers face Cavan in the Ulster Minor Championship in Kingspan Breffni Park, Mick McGrath has appealed to all clubs in the county not to play any of the county minor squad in this weekend’s programme of All- County League games.
He feels it would be very unfair and with players running the risk of picking up an injury, it could rob a player of the opportunity of representing his county.