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comment Why GAA bosses should have to name proper starting 15 in advance or face financial loss

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Donegal's Paddy McBrearty in action against Armagh's Rory Grugan during last weekend's Allianz FL Division 1 North tie at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Donegal's Paddy McBrearty in action against Armagh's Rory Grugan during last weekend's Allianz FL Division 1 North tie at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Donegal's Paddy McBrearty in action against Armagh's Rory Grugan during last weekend's Allianz FL Division 1 North tie at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

I had a ‘very friendly’ argument with Donegal boss Declan Bonner after their league game against Armagh last weekend.

Now, I have a better relationship with Bonner than probably any other inter-county manager. We have known each other for more than 30 years.

I have a bond with the members of the Donegal 1992 All-Ireland winning team having had the unique privilege of travelling home with them after their historic success.

I spent two memorable days and nights journeying through the Hills of Donegal with Sam. Imagine a reporter getting that kind of access now. But there was nothing unusual about it back then.

Whenever we meet we tend to reminisce about those days and gently slag each other off. So, I wasn’t in the least surprised when Declan greeted me on Saturday with the line “Still working after all these years?”.

My colleagues and I duly recorded his after-match comments. With enough quotes collected to write a chapter of War and Peace I decided to lob in a hand grenade which resulted in the following exchange:

McGoldrick: When are you going to stop picking dummy teams?

Bonner: I never do that. I can’t help it if Neil McGee pulls up (in the warm-up).

McGoldrick: You made two other changes from team which was announced at 12 o’clock today.

Bonner: No, no, no. The team goes in on a Wednesday. You might get this part of it right. We train on a Thursday night, now if there are injuries picked up is it is my fault that the team had to go in at 12 o’clock on Wednesday?

McGoldrick: But the team was announced at noon today.

Bonner: That was the team from the programme.

McGoldrick: But that shouldn’t be the team.

Bonner: Are you telling me that we shouldn’t train on Thursday night?

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McGoldrick: No, I’m telling you that you and every manager should release the proper team.

[By now voices had become slight raised].

With Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney doing a TV interview a few feet away we decided to adjourn our discussion without resolution.

Listen, I’m not singling out Declan Bonner or Donegal. They are merely following the trend.

Had I any say, no GAA county team would be published in advance of a match because frankly we are knowingly facilitating managers’ attempts at deceit.

There’s a famous story told about the late Eugene McGee who was driving home from Offaly training a few days before the famous 1982 All-Ireland final when the Kerry team was announced on RTE radio.

When he heard that Ogie Moran had not been selected at centre-forward he was so excited he stopped the car, got out and punched the air with delight.

He believed – rightly as it happened – that his right-half back Pat Fitzgerald would be a better match for Moran, while centre-back Sean Lowry would cope better against Tom Spillane.

But the point of the story is that McGee knew that Mick O’Dwyer was not pulling a stroke.

In those days and, indeed, for many years afterwards, teams lined out exactly as announced and published in the match programme.

In the odd case where the corner-forwards swapped it would be frowned upon by the elder statesmen in the press corps.

Nowadays, not alone do the players not line out in the named positions - which admittedly are mostly obsolete - they rarely field the 15 players named not just on the programme but what has been released to the media usually a few hours earlier.

Their modus operandi is very simple. Managers name a team for the programme to meet the Wednesday programme deadline, but normally don’t select the team until 48 hours before a game.

And most team bosses do not release this team to the media until a few minutes before throw-in.

Croke Park regularly tut-tut about what’s going on but in practical terms don’t really address the issue.

Granted, for the championship, counties must submit their 26-member match-day panel a couple of days prior to the game. But the GAA will not release these lists to the media.

It is actually disrespectful to every paying fan that they don’t actually know who is playing on the day.

There is a simple way to cure this malaise: The 15 players starting a game must be named 24 hours in advance. Counties who disobey the regulation would lose all funding entitlements from Croke Park. And any subsequent change in personnel counts as a substitution.

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