Scotland GAA has hit back at former Kerry star Pat Spillane and says it will “robustly” fight to safeguard the survival of the All Ireland junior club football championship.
The competition was not included in Croke Park’s revised ‘Return to Play’ structures announced on Friday (26 June).
That decision was greeted by a “delighted” Spillane, who in his Sunday World column said he hoped the competition “would remain consigned to the dustbin”.
Those comments have angered Scotland GAA and prompted criticism of the former Kerry great turned media pundit.
“Very disappointed in this piece,” said Scotland GAA on its official Twitter page.
“@Kerry_Official has benefited from this comp and such a disrespect to your own – all the time and effort put in. Our connection to IC [inter-county] football in Ireland ‘consigned to the dustbin’.”
Spillane’s criticism comes despite one of his nephews, Adrian, winning a Junior All Ireland with Kerry in 2016.
On route, Adrian put in a man of the match display as Kerry defeated Lancashire at Bedian’s Sports Ground in Manchester.
The future of the junior All Ireland is expected to be debated at next year’s Congress, and Scotland are gearing up for a rigorous defence.
Scotland chairperson Peter Mossey tweeted that any attempt to remove it from the fixtures calendar will be “robustly resisted”.
“This competition and others like it are the lifeblood of Gaelic games in Britain – the value of which cannot be measured in pounds shillings and pence,” he tweeted.
“We must continue to incentivise our players – and create role models for our youth.”
That followed a tweet from Scotland GAA’s official twitter account which read: “We struggle to keep the All Britain champions as part of this competition as it’s seemingly on the chopping block at annual Congress. Fingers crossed for 2021.”
At February’s GAA Congress, held in Wexford, a motion put forward by the Fixture Calendar Review Taskforce of Central Council (Motion 43) would have sounded the death-nail for the competition, which was first played for in 1912.
The motion was explained as one way of “decongesting the fixtures calendar”.
Any such move, though, would reduce the quality of the games in Britain and lead to a “downward spiral”, Mossey told the Irish World in March.
He predicted the GAA in Britain could lose players coming over from Ireland to other sports such as soccer, or that players could be “more inclined” to continue to play for their clubs at home.
He added: “One of the first thing inter-county players will ask, within the clubs, is what competitions are you involved in?
“Will I fly back over to home to play for my home club, or is there any opportunity to play at a decent standard here?
“We will lose players to other sports if we don’t have attractive games and something to incentivise them to play.”
Motion 43 was one of a number of motions subsequently withdrawn for “further consideration/tweaking”, and had been scheduled to be discussed again at Special Congress in September, before Covid-19 intervened.
“We will lose a little bit of kudos and prestige,” Mossey added. “All of the counties in Britain see the developmental value and the incentivisation value of the Junior All Ireland.”
The competition hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for British sides in recent years. London were the last British champions to win a game in the competition on their way to reaching the final in 1995.
London defeated Kerry 2-10 to 1-12 at Ruislip that year, before losing out to Mayo in the final in Castlebar.
Kerry have won the last five All-Ireland junior finals. They defeated Scotland in the sides’ semi-final last year at Clydebank in Glasgow, on their way to beating Galway in the final.
The last of London’s six junior titles came in 1986, while Warwickshire, Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire have all previously reached the final.
In recent years, Britain’s counties have been on the end of some losses in the All Ireland semi-final – Kerry had 22 points to spare against Scotland in 2019.
But in 2011 Lancashire got to within just four of Kildare (0-16 to 2-6), and within six of Cork in 2013.
The number of participating counties has been falling, however, and a revamp could help to reinvigorate it.
Kerry and Cork have been the only sides to enter from Munster for the last two years. In 2016, the number of Munster counties taking part was six.
Leinster originally had six entrants in 2019 – Meath, Kildare, Longford, Carlow, Wicklow and Louth – although Carlow were not expected to be involved.
Four of the five counties in Connacht fielded teams in 2019 – the exception was Roscommon – while Ulster hasn’t staged a junior championship for some time.
The provincial championship in Britain has not been without its own difficulties in recent years. Last year’s competition included four walkovers in the group stage, and in 2018 that number was three.