talking point | 

Dummy teams in GAA have become a joke and it needs to end

It’s ridiculous what managers are doing with their false line-ups

john kiely© SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrickSunday World

In my first column of 2023 I argued the GAA had effectively given the green light to inter-county team managers to mess with everybody’s head by naming dummy squads and teams again.

Having made a half-hearted effort to curb the practice for a couple of years the GAA capitulated.

Team managers – particularly All-Ireland-winning – managers can be very persuasive when they’re on the war path.

So, the Association bowed to pressure and rolled back the already light touch regulation. I won’t bore you with the finer details of the regulations but here’s a summation.

Previously counties had to submit a list of 26 players to Croke Park by Thursday morning at 9am before a weekend championship match.

They were prohibited from making any changes to the list which effectively meant this was the match-day squad.

The listed squads were not released to the media but were published in the match programme. The correct team had only to be submitted to the GAA 40 minutes before throw-in.

By any standards it wasn’t a draconian regulation, but managers railed against it. And after last year’s All-Ireland hurling final Limerick boss John Kiely cut loose.

Kyle Hayes and David Reidy picked up injuries after the match day squad had been submitted to Croke Park. Had they not recovered Limerick would have had to do with 24 on All-Ireland final day. In the event they both featured in the win over Kilkenny.

Hard cases make bad law. But as it turned out, when push-back came the GAA rolled over. They yielded to the managerial lobby and scrapped the regulation.

Now managers are allowed replace injured or family bereaved players after the Thursday deadline and alterations can also be made in the event of a last-minute injury after the finalised team and substitutes has been submitted 40 minutes before the throw-in.

In January I posed this question: will managers abide by the spirit of the new regulations or simply drive a coach and four through them.

Even then I suspected what the answer would be.

Granted match day regulations for league games are less defined than for the championship but the omens are not promising.

I am indebted to my colleague, Frank Roche for compiling the ‘shame’ list. He revealed that last weekend there were 18 changes to the starting teams in Division 1, with another 14 in Division 2. Just three of the top 16 teams – Armagh, Derry and Limerick – lined out as selected.

Funnily enough, Armagh and Derry won, and Limerick secured a memorable draw against Meath. Maybe there is a hidden message there somewhere.

Mayo topped the table with five changes, followed by Roscommon and Galway (three each), Kerry, Monaghan and Donegal (two each) and Tyrone (one). In Division 2 Dublin made four changes, followed by Louth and Kildare (three each), Cork (two) and Meath and Clare (one each).

Essentially this is a major problem and managers will rightly point out that nobody really gives a damn if there is a dummy team published on their social media channels and in the match programme.

Mind you, those who buy match programmes at €4 a pop would be forgiven for seeking a refund if it published dummy teams.

But making last-minute changes to the published match day squad does have consequences, particularly for radio and TV commentators. Take what happened in Armagh last Saturday night.

There were four late changes to Donegal’s published match-day squad of 26. Peadar Mogan and Caolan Ward replaced Marty O’Reilly and Hugh McFadden in the starting 15. The latter, who wore the number 15 jersey, replaced Ward before half time. Messy but no real issues.

There were two changes to the bench: Ciaran Thompson replaced James O’Donnell – who was due to wear number 17 – while Kian Barrett got the nod ahead of Jamie Grant who was due to wear number 21.

But that didn’t happen: Thompson wore the 21 shirt and made a significant impact after his 47th minute introduction. Our Donegal colleagues in the press box spotted the error and put us right. But it wasn’t so straightforward for the TV and radio commentaries.

The supreme irony is that while county teams have never been more professional in their set-up they can’t – or don’t bother – to get the basics like the team list right.

Granted I’m getting cranky in my old age. But dummy teams, white coloured numbers on team jerseys and glass fronted press boxes have become the bane of my life.

Croke Park are you listening.

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