Offaly hurler Sean Ryan and Offaly hurling manager, Kevin Ryan
Writing in today's Irish Independent, former Offaly hurler Michael Verney raised an ongoing issue that "reared its ugly head" in Offaly over the weekend.
He describes how two senior hurling stars, captain Sean Ryan, as well as Sean Gardiner, were placed into a difficult and uncomfortable situation where they were forced to make a choice between representing their club or county.
The controversy centred on a junior football match scheduled for Friday night between Birr and Lusmagh at the same time the Offaly hurlers were due to train. Sean Ryan, who started his inter-county career with the larger ball, along with Gardiner, expressed an interest in playing the game with their Birr and Lusmagh clubmates respectively.
Michael Verney, who is also a Birr club man, pointed out that both players would have been entitled to play in the contest, considering the rules state that inter-county players must be free from club games a minimum of six days before a championship match. Friday's match was a full eight days ahead of Offaly's scheduled hurling qualifier with Waterford this coming Saturday afternoon.
The issue persisted and despite efforts from Birr officials to get a postponement of the game, it went ahead with no fixture change being made by Offaly GAA.
"Both were entitled to participate in this do-or-die game and it's understood that an agreement was attempted with hurling boss Kevin Ryan. However, no middle ground was reached and the no-win situation was left with the players," Michael Verney wrote.
Verney went on to say that, "with their places in the Offaly starting 15 for the Déise clash on the line, both Ryan and Gardiner attended county training." He insisted that this decision would have been a "particularly difficult experience for former dual star Ryan," who is an integral part of the Birr football set-up.
His father John Ryan manages the Birr football side and Verney says the choice forced upon Sean was "a needlessly awkward position for him to be put in." "After dedicating 12 years to his county, the least Ryan deserved was to not have his inter-county place put in jeopardy because of a fixture clash which was completely out of his hands. Making him decide between representing his club and his county was unfair," he added.
Michael Verney cemented his argument by asking, "When is the dictatorship and the GAA's ownership of players going to come to an end?" "Such scenarios arise in clubs, particularly dual clubs, in every county, and that has been the case for years, but it doesn't make it right."
"Too often managers dictate the terms of engagement to their players and move them around like chess pieces, telling what they can and cannot do. The player is always the one that loses out and this has to stop. Now," he concluded.
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