CEO Tom Parson speaking at the GPA's conference at the weekend. [Inpho/Tom Maher]

Kill off pre-season comps: GPA

The Gaelic Players Association wants the GAA to remove pre-season competitions after an overwhelming backing of  a motion at their AGM last weekend.

Earlier GPA CEO Tom Parsons criticized the GAA’s for not getting rid of the tournaments which serve to prepare teams for league and championship.

"Unfortunately, the ongoing efforts by the GPA to remove provincial pre-season competitions during the condensed split season continues to fall on deaf ears at GAA Central Council level," Parsons stressed.

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"Recently, Central Council has acknowledged the pressure of the condensed season. However, following a thorough evaluation of various options, it was ultimately determined that taking no action was the preferred route for 2024."

Now with over 100 players at the weekend meetings adding their voices to his plea, it could force Croke Park to look at the issue again with a view to seriously curtailing pre-season activity.


[The following items are from Sean Creedon]

Ulster GAA head of operations Stephen McGeehan is confident that the new Casement Park will be built in time for the Euro 2028 finals. McGeehan expects the much-delayed re-build of the Belfast venue to begin next spring, despite the spiralling costs involved. Building the new 34,500-capacity stadium is now a matter of urgency as it formed part of the UK and Ireland’s successful bid to host the Euro finals in five years’ time. McGeehan said: ‘‘At the moment our contribution remains £15m, but the conversations are continuing  We are talking to the executive departments. We are talking to the British Government and we are talking to the Irish Government and over the course of the next couple of months, the final contributions from all stakeholders will be finalised. We are hopeful that sometime in April or May of next year we will get started on site. After that the build programme is going to be two years, possibly two  and a half years, depending on some variations on plans that have to be finalised and put in place.’’



Goalkeeper Pat Jennings, who won 119 caps for Northern Ireland says he is very proud that a statue honouring him will be unveiled in his native Newry on Nov. 8. Jennings said: ‘‘I say very proud to say that I  a Newry man. Newry has always been my first home where I grew up and went to school and I still retain a home. I played my first football in Newry and have friends and family living in the city, indeed, my wife Eleanor is also from Newry. Jennings’s club career included winning five trophies with Tottenham and Arsenal in addition to being named the Players’ Player of the Year 1976 and Football Writers’ Player of the Year 1973. Jennings haul of 119 caps was a record for the Northern Ireland men's team until he was surpassed by current captain Steven Davis in October 2020. He won his first cap in 1964 at the age of 18 in a British Home Championship match against Wales alongside fellow debutant George Best. Jennings played for Northern Ireland at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, making the final appearance of his 22-year international career in a 3-0 defeat to Brazil at the latter tournament in Mexico.

Pat Jennings presenting Jonny Evans with his 100th cap prior to Northern Ireland’s game in September against San Marino. [Inpho/Presseye/William Cherry]



Portmarnock Golf Club will seek government support for a formal approach to The R&A regarding the possibility of staging The Open Championship or Women’s Open at some point in the future. The Open was last held on the island of Ireland in 2019 when Shane Lowry won the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush and it will return to the County Antrim venue in 2025. Speaking during last month's Irish Open at The K Club, Rory McIlroy believes the R&A are seriously looking at staging the Open Championship outside the UK for the first time. McIlroy said: ‘‘I think they are seriously looking at it. I think it would be fantastic.’’ Portmarnock is eligible to stage R&A events after voting in 2021 to admit women members for the first time in its history, with nine women elected as full members in December last year. The north County Dublin links will host the 121st Women's Amateur Championship next year and now they are exploring the opportunity to bring two more prestigious events to the venue at some point in the future.



Former Mayo footballer Colm Boyle says he not  happy with the involvement of a Galway man in the Mayo senior football management team for 2024. Joe Canney, who was a coach with Galway club Corofin, has replaced Liam McHale in Kevin McStay’s backroom team in Mayo. Boyle, who retired from intercounty football in November 2021 said. “I have absolutely nothing against Joe Canney. I don’t know the man personally. But I am surprised that it a Galway man they have gone for. Maybe it is because I am from close to the border with Galway, I don't know what it is, but bringing someone in from Galway just doesn’t sit right with me into a Mayo set-up. My feelings were the same with Donie Buckley (Kerry) and Stephen Rochford (Galway). I would have felt that there was enough expertise in Mayo.’’ Boyle played for the Davitts club in Ballindine, close to the Galway border.



Next year’s Aintree Grand National will have a maximum of 34 runners after the field size was reduced as part of new safety measures. The Jockey Club, who host the famous Liverpool race, have made several alterations to the contest in a bid to make it safer for both horse and rider. A standing start will be implemented, as well as the first fence being moved forward. There are some minor changes to the course too, with fence 11 reduced in height and the railing adjusted to help round up loose horses. Irish trainer Ted Walsh, who won the National with Papillon in 2000 was not happy with the decision. He said: ‘‘The Jockey Club is just slowly giving in, they are on the back foot. They have to try and appease those people who criticise the event in order for a race like the National to continue, it is what it is. This is only another step in the abolition of jump racing as we knew it. I’m 73 now and I probably won’t live to see the next 20 years. But I would say in 20 years’ time you might have no English National and you might have no jump racing in England.”

The organization undertakes a review of the event every year, drawing from statistics and academic study as well as consulting industry figures, the sport’s governing body and the equine charity World Horse Welfare. The key findings after the 2023 renewal have led to a reduction in the maximum field, with the safety limit cut by six to 34 runners from 2024 onwards. Other significant revisions to the race begin before the meeting itself, with horses now required to carry a rating of at least 130 to be eligible, an update on the previous lower limit of 125 and a switch that puts the race in line with Grade One contests.



Former Leinster and Ireland winger Dave Kearney has joined Chicago Hounds rugby club. The younger brother of Rob Kearney announced he was retiring from Leinster in May after nearly 14 years. He scored 55 tries for the province and played 19 times for Ireland. Now the 34 year-old who can play at full-back or on the wing, is going to try his luck in the USA.