The Laois county board official who spoke of an impending war between the GAA and the rival sports of soccer and rugby has clarified his comments on Off the Ball tonight.
Kieran Leavy made some startling comments at a Laois county board meeting in which he seemed to lament the rise of soccer in his hometown of Portarlington and said that "if a young lad comes and says he is going to play soccer, he needs to be told 'alright, go but we don’t want you anymore'."
This last point being the most controversial element of his speech.
He admitted last night that this sounded like a "terrible" thing to say. Speaking on Newstalk this evening, he rowed back on those comments and admitted that he went too far.
When Molloy asked him would he endorse a GAA coach telling a young player who wished to play both soccer and Gaelic football that he could therefore no longer play the latter, Leavy replied, "that would be wrong. I'm man enough to admit that."
The verdict on social media has been unsurprisingly harsh but it emerges that the portrayal of Leavy of a pre-1970s style GAA dinosaur are wide of the mark.
On the contrary, Leavy sponsors the local rugby team in Portarlington and often attends Liverpool football matches. He says he is not interested in stopping youngsters playing multiple sports.
But he stands over his concern about Irish soccer's coming shift towards summer play. FAI High Performance Ruud Dokter has driven the push towards moving all schoolboy leagues towards summer play, in the hopes of encouraging quality football on better pitches.
But this, Leavy says, will heap pressures on young players who wish to dabble in both games. He claims it could interrupt both sports. Ultimately, he would prefer if both sports retained their same calendar, saying this arrangement had often worked well in the past.
Lookit. What I probably meant to say was I don't want to see players not playing sport. I'd like to see them playing sport all year around. And what's happening now is we have other sports playing summer leagues - which never happened before - with soccer or rugby. They never encroached on each other (before) they worked in unison together. We always helped each other out. You'd have players playing rugby or soccer throughout the winter. And then they came to spring and they come to GAA. And it was always easy. We worked together.
When Molloy asked the Laois delegate why his attitude seemed to have softened overnight, Leavy said he acknowledged that his comments looked excessively harsh when he saw them re-printed in the paper. He was anxious to point out that he is not anti-soccer or anti-rugby.
Maybe, I was a bit hard on that. What I'm saying is, we should try and work around it. The fixtures of both sports need to work together. Is it going to affect both of us.
I looked at what I said and probably was a bit hard. I think myself it was probably a bit hard. But I'm still very worried about the young fella having to make the decision and the pressures on underage players.
But I think people would have said 'Lookit, this guy is typical old GAA, he's one way or the other.' I sponsor the rugby club, I go to soccer games, I go to rugby internationals. I go to every GAA game I can, I go to horse racing. I love my sport.
Leavy pointed to figures which confirmed that the population of Portarlington had risen from 4-4,500 in 2002. Now, the population is around 10,000. This extraordinary rise hasn't been reflected in the numbers playing Gaelic Games at underage level. This sparked his initial alarm.
Listen to the interview below: