Top US official calls for US GAA aid

Top official requests new transfer system to aid USA

GAA – San Francisco


By Jackie Cahill


A top US official has called on Croke Park to introduce a new transfer system to aid American GAA.

San Francisco chairman Oliver McElhone is looking for a relaxation of current guidelines which would encourage players from Ireland to visit America for a shorter period of time.

McElhone insisits that a higher calibre of player is needed in the US to raise the profile of Gaelic Games stateside and to ensure that local players receive top quality coaching.

The days of high profile intercounty players arriving on weekend sanctions and receiving financial reimbursement are in the past and now, any player coming out from Ireland must sign a minimum sixty-day sanction to ensure eligibility.

But McElhone believes that more flexibility is needed and wants to see shorter-term transfers introduced to help American clubs while also giving players the chance to experience life in the US.

McElhone revealed: “At the moment, a lot of people are looking to come out but they changed the rules within the GAA so we can’t get the calibre of player that we want out here.

“My way of thinking is that there is always a need for that high calibre of player from Ireland.

“It’s the only way that the American player will learn and improve.”

McElhone added: “They’ve put the noose around our necks.

“It’s time to open it up again. Things are not good at home. If you have a quality of player at home and his county and club is out of the championship, why not let him come to America? Why put dates or deadlines on them – let them play.”

McElhone insisted: “The way the economy is going; they’d want to release the shackles a bit…(but) we’re not after intercounty players. They’re a special breed and deserve to be.

“I’d also wonder why London has one set of rules, New York has another set, North America another and Australia the same. Why not combine those rules. Let people travel – it’s the best knowledge in the world so why should they be shackled.”

In the past, many star players arrived on weekend sanctions and took advantage of gaps in the intercounty season to travel to America.

But the practice of alleged payments to players and the manipulation of these rules by American clubs caused some disquiet within the Association and led to the introduction of more stringent guidelines.

McElhone inisted: “I don’t agree with the money end of it but if players come out to better themsleves, let the do that. They can only come out on visas anyway.”

Meanwhile, the travelling O’Neills/TG4 Ladies Football Allstars will grace the magnificent facilities at Treasure Island in San Francisco on Saturday for an exhibition game.

The game’s top stars were on Treasure Island yesterday for coaching sessions with over 100 local children and on Saturday, the cream of American talent will also be on show in a specially organised tournament.

McElhone, a native of Derry who has been in San Francisco since 1982, said: “The Treasure Island project is one of the most amazing things that I’ll ever see in my lifetime. We achieved things that I never thought possible in this town.

“Some people who were never involved in football or the GAA did things I couldn’t believe. They’re the people who deserve the credit.”

The first spade went into the ground on the Treasure Island project in March 2008 and the Vodafone Football Allstars visited in December of that year.

Last year, Treasure Island opened its new clubhouse and with three pitches decorating the complex, the GAA now boasts a spectacular base in San Francisco.

McElhone reflected: “We’re going through a very strong period at the moment. Ladies Football is going exceptionally well and has been since the game began to develop properly in the 1980s.

“There have always been Americans playing – they love the sport.

“I remember the first CYC (Continental Youth Championships) in New York. We took our daughters there; we only had seven players but the way it grew from there is amazing.

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