When will the GAA learn about pitch inspections?

THE SPORTING DIARY with Sports Ed Peter Campbell

When will the GAA learn about pitch inspections?

When will the GAA learn about pitch inspections?

The shabby treatment of GAA supporters continued last weekend with the late postponement of GAA games in Ulster and Connacht in the respective Dr. McKenna Cup and FBD League fixtures.

And it is not just the late postponements that are at issue. Paying customers did not get their money back, only a ticket to attend the refixture - whether they are able to make another trip to Clones or Castlebar or wherever.

The GAA is an amateur organisation and in regard to the treatment of patrons and the postponement of intercounty matches, it is certainly amateur.

Only last March, we had the debacle in Enniskillen of an U-21 Ulster Championship game being called off at a late hour due to flooding.

On Sunday last we arrived in Clones around 1.10 p.m. for the 2 p.m. throw-in. There was no indication that anything was awry. The turnstiles were opened and patrons allowed to pay in. It was only at around 1.40 when we saw the two managers, Declan Bonner and Malachy O’Rourke, taking to the pitch along with the referee that we had an indication that something might be wrong. However, there was no official announcement that an inspection was taking place.

We were told that the throw-in was being put back to 2.15 (to allow the sun reach a corner of the field that was white with frost). Then at around 1.55 word went around that the teams would warm up and the game, if it was going to go ahead, would throw-in at 2.30. Again no official announcement and the patrons were relying on heresay.

Finally at around 2.10 the announcement was made that the game was off and patrons were told that an announcement would be made regarding the replay.

But when they went to get their money back, they were told that the money had already been deposited in the bank (a similar response was told to patrons in Castlebar!). The Ulster and Connacht Councils must have very quick access to banks!

Surely an intercounty fixture in this age should be handled with a little more professionalism. Any pitch hosting such an important game should be inspected at the very least for the last time two hours before the throw-in. And if there’s any doubt, the game should be called off then to facilitate patrons making long and unfruitful journeys.

As regards patrons not getting their money back, again it is not good enough. If you were a supporter from Gaoth Dobhair and you made the journey to Clones on Sunday in good faith, and all you get is a ticket to return on Sunday next, there is something deeply wrong. People have plans and being ready to go back to Clones a week later is hardly likely to have been part of those plans. If the proper systems were in place, there would be no reason why refunds can be given. It seems that the criticism around this has had an effect and the Provincial Councils are offering a refund now. Patrons need to make themselves heard.

But, as we said last March after Enniskillen, we won’t be holding our breath!

Coleman and McGuinness back

There were some big breaking stories in the last few days with news that Jim McGuinness is leaving his post in China, while Seamie Coleman is back in full-time training with Everton.

The McGuinness story came out of the blue. He was only over six months in his coaching role with Beijing Sinobo Guoan, working under former Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt.

It seems that McGuinness made the decision for personal reasons and there was a hint that he is looking forward to a coaching role closer to home. We will look forward with interest to more news on this.

The other story that Killybegs’ Seamie Coleman is back in full-time training with Everton is very welcome news. There had been a story around Christmas and the New Year that Coleman was ‘way off’ a return, but the manager, Sam Allardyce, told the club’s AGM on Tuesday night that he was back in training, although no timescale had been put on a return.

More news on that story, also, will be awaited by his loyal fans in Donegal, Ireland and Everton.