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Five Club GAA Transfers Which Caused Controversy

Five Club GAA Transfers Which Caused Controversy
By PJ Browne Updated
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Shane Walsh's mooted transfer from Kilkerrin-Clonberne to Kilmacud Crokes has caused much debate in the GAA world since its possibility was first raised in the media last Saturday.

For Walsh, it seems a practical move. He's living and studying in Dublin. A four-hour round trip to Galway for training and matches over the next few months would put additional strain on a 29-year-old looking to eke everything he can from his body over the latter stages of his career. As he said last week, "travel certainly takes its toll on the body".

Kilkerrin-Clonberne's annoyance stems from losing their best player, someone whose career they've nurtured from underage. Their chances of stepping up from intermediate to senior level in Galway largely hang on Walsh.

This is far from the first, nor will it be the last, club GAA transfer to cause controversy.

Eamonn Fennell - O'Tooles to St Vincents

After a saga which ran for four years, Eamonn Fennell finally transferred from O’Tooles to another Northside Dublin club, St Vincents, in February 2011. O'Tooles had initially objected to the move.

On the night the transfer was finally granted, the Dublin County Board overturned a management committee recommendation that it be rejected.

3 November 2013; Cian Burke, Ballymun Kickhams, in action against Eamon Fennell, St Vincent's. Dublin GAA County Senior Football Championship Final, Ballymun Kickhams v St Vincent's, Parnell Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Two weeks prior, Fennell told the Irish Independent that he felt he had "served " his "penance".

"Everyone knows all I wanted to do was play football," he said.

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"It was never a case that it was me versus O'Tooles. It probably got a bit spiteful there for a while, but I want to get back playing football. I want to get back playing club football.

"I won't be going back to O'Tooles. I have made that clear on numerous occasions with them and with the county board. I don't see how they could think I am going to go back after the way things have gone."

After winning his first county title with St Vincents in 2013, Fennell told The 42:

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"It was always going to be a rough road leaving O’Toole’s. I left to try and get to play football and to win things so I’m happy with how things are going at the moment."

Cathal Dunbar - Ballygarrett/Réalt Na Mara to Naomh Éanna

In January 2018, it emerged that Wexford hurler Cathal Dunbar was seeking a transfer from Ballygarrett/Réalt Na Mara to the nearby Gorey-based Naomh Éanna.

Dunbar's native side had been relegated to the third tier of Wexford hurling the previous year, while Naomh Eanna are a senior club. It's just a 20-minute drive between the two teams.

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Ballygarrett initially blocked the transfer but Dunbar was able to show that he was residing in Gorey, and so was allowed to move club.

27 February 2022; Cathal Dunbar of Wexford celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Allianz GAA Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Galway and Wexford at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

"It's the whole GAA ethos thing," Ballygarrett chairman Murt Fleming told the Sunday Independent in March 2018 after the transfer had gone through.

"If it is going to go like this it is going to go like soccer - there are no borders. If he went to Rosslare, the other end of the county, we would have less of a problem. It is totally against what we believe in. I played senior football in America for four years and came back at 28 when in my prime, we were intermediate at the time, and two senior clubs came to me and offered me a job.

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"I took one of the jobs but did not go to them, I could not go to a senior club and then meet my team-mates the next day. Cathal's mother and father both live in the heart of our parish. I just can't believe he wanted to go in the first place."

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Fleming added: "There is no way I could change his mind. I said, 'I am begging you, give us one more year and after that we will have a meeting and maybe let you go.'"

Naomh Eanna went on to win their first Wexford SHC title later that year with Dunbar scoring 1-4 in the final against St Martins.

Donie Vaughan - Ballinrobe to Castlebar

In late 2017, two months after Ballinrobe had been relegated from the Mayo Senior Football Championship, Donie Vaughan jumped ship to then three-in-a-row county champions Castlebar Mitchels.

6 July 2019; Donal Vaughan of Mayo celebrates after scoring a late point during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 4 match between Galway and Mayo at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Like the Dunbar move, what raised eyebrows was that Vaughan was joining to a senior club in proximity to his native side. There are just 30km between the clubs.

However, Vaughan was living in Castlebar, where he runs one of his three shoe shops, and the transfer was sanctioned.

Ben Brosnan - Bannow-Ballymitty to Castletown

The Wexford footballer's move from Bannow-Ballymitty to Castletown put him at what Brendan Furlong called "the centre of a storm" not because it was allowed, but because it was initially rejected.

Despite his club hometown club of Bannow-Ballymitty giving the transfer their blessing - they even wrote a letter in support - Brosnan's move to Castletown was turned down in 2017 by a county board sub-committee. This was despite Brosnan residing in Castletown, which more than an hour away from Bannow-Ballymitty.

8 July 2017; Ben Brosnan of Wexford scoring a point for his side during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 2B match between Wexford and Monaghan at Innovate Wexford Park in Co Wexford. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Brosnan appealed the decision, and following what the Wexford People reported to be "lengthy deliberations", the transfer was granted.

"We cannot understand why Ben had his original application rejected. He met all the transfer criteria in full," said Castletown chairman Gabriel Maxwell.

Christy Ring - Cloyne to Glen Rovers

In 1941, Cork legend Christy Ring moved from home club Cloyne to city side Glen Rovers.

In the documentary Christy Ring: Man and Ball, which aired on RTÉ in December 2020, Bunty Cahill - a neighbour and friend of Ring - said "There was some falling out anyway" between the player and Cloyne. Though, Glen Rovers historian Diarmuid O'Donovan added that the transfer was partially down to a lack of "employment opportunities in the Cloyne area".

"One of two things were open to him: Move to Cork or move to England," said O'Donovan.

"Everybody was aware that Christy Ring was coming to Cork, and everybody was hoping that he'd join them."

Donal Óg Cusack, a native of Cloyne, explained that there still is a reference to Ring in the club's crest.

"I never felt it rested easy on the people who were talking about it," said the three-time All-Ireland winning Cork goalkeeper about Ring's departure.

"It wasn't a conversation that I very often heard anything about.

"The Cloyne crest, it's got a star that represents Ring but within the star there is a little tear and what that tear represents is the fact that Ring had to leave Cloyne."

See Also: Remembering 11 Of The Most Famous Inter-County GAA Transfers

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