To the lower reaches of the hurling championship. Specifically, the Nicky Rackard Cup.
Louth's championship season has been thrown askew by the revelation that the lynchpins of their team, Niall and Jerry Arthur, have had their eligibility to play with the county revoked. Both hail from Clare, with Niall's a recognisable name from Clare's back-to-back All-Ireland winners at under-21 level.
Although still playing club hurling in their native Clare, the Arthurs have turned out for Louth this year given that they are teaching in the area. Niall, in particular, has been a phenomenal addition. In a National League game with Longford earlier this year, his haul of 4-12 broke Ring's previous scoring record of 6-4. But Naill, nor his brother will be involved in the renewal of rivalries with Longford this weekend, as the CCCC have ruled that the players do not meet the GAA's rules regarding outside players in weaker hurling counties.
Given the paucity of selection options in the bottom three tiers of the hurling championship, the GAA allows these counties to recruit up to three players outside of their counties once the players are either living or playing club hurling within that county.
A week before last weekend's game with Warwickshire, the Arthurs were informed that they were not eligible to play with Louth, and the subsequent appeal was thrown out on a technicality.
Louth manager Phillip O'Brien joined us on this week's edition of The So-Called Weaker Podcast to talk about the controversy, and you can listen to the interview in full on the podcast below.
O'Brien understands that the CCCC followed up on a complaint regarding the Arthurs eligibility, and told Balls that the Committee ruled that the information supplied regarding the Arthurs address wasn't satisfactory.
They provided proof that they are living where they are living. That wasn't accepted by the CCCC. I don't know how you can prove where you are living these days. In my case, I have two sons and they are living with me two days a week and three days somewhere else and two days somewhere else. Most young people are like that these days.
The Arthur brothers aren't living permanently in Louth as they are travelling back to play with their club in Clare at the weekend. They supplied what we thought was good enough evidence, but it wasn't accepted by Croke Park.
The subsequent appeal, led by the GPA, was thrown out on a technicality.
The Louth County Board received notification on the Wednesday, the Arthurs received official notification on the Saturday [of the May Bank Holiday weekend], and they went to their GPA representative. This is how I understand it. The GPA appealed it on their behalf, but the appeal was thrown out as it wasn't lodged within three days. It wasn't appealed in time. The guys are saying that they didn't receive notification in time to appeal it.
Conversations with the GPA are ongoing, but O'Brien is resigned to their being unavailable for this weekend's game with Longford. Their loss, says O'Brien, is "devastating".
It's the difference between us and really competing with us. The rest of the players are really great lads, but the two guys are class players. We don't have a big selection, and these lads have been training since last November.
Louth is only picking from three clubs. The outside players are very, very valuable to us. It's devastating, and it pushes Louth backwards. We would have had other players to come to us and asked to play for Louth, but I already had my players in. Had I known that the Arthurs weren't going to be allowed to play for Louth, we could have had other players in.
It's devastating for the rest of the panel, they are upset about it. It's out of our hands. All I can do is motivate the players, but how do you motivate your players when your chief score-getter can't play?
We don't know who made the complaint. Is this the way the CCCC operate? Do they get anonymous phonecalls? Or do the CCCC know something I don't know? It's mind-boggling for me. I was planning with these two guys, and had to restructure my whole team last week.
Elsewhere in a lengthy interview, O'Brien was highly critical of Croke Park's inaction as he sees the game dying in the weaker counties across the country.
It is something that has been regressing the length and breadth of this country. People in Croke Park don't realise what is going on. We are talking about Super 8s in football but we have probably had Super 8s in hurling for the last few years. It's a fantastic game. I've lived in Singapore, and people over there love the game. We have great games. The problem is that it hasn't really been promoted by Croke Park in counties like Louth, Leitrim and Longford.
They are not putting in the effort to keep that game alive in the weaker counties. It's dying. Its dying. There used to be seven or eight clubs in Louth - now they are down in three.
When a club goes out of existence it's very hard to get it back again. So what are Croke Park doing about this? What are they doing to keep the game alive? It will die in these areas. It will die.
There are ways of encouraging it. I think that intercounty players should be given a massive tax break. They are giving a great service to their country. Croke Park needs to wake up and smell the roses.
There should be full-time coaches going into the schools and developing the school from school level.The county boards probably can't afford them, so it should be funded from Croke Park.
There is nothing that can't be changed. I grew up in North Meath, Wolfe Tones is my club. When I was young, there was no hurling in my club. Then, a group of men came together and founded a juvenile hurling club. They worked in the schools, promoted the game, and suddenly they had 30 or 40 kids out playing hurling. They competed in under-14, under-16 and minor championships and then they started winning championships.
I was lucky enough t0 be captain of the Junior Championship, and they went on and won the Junior 'A' and then the Intermediate and then reached the senior final in our first year. That was an area where there was no hurling whatsoever. It was just a group of men who loved the game.
Croke Park should see this as a crisis. Don't let these clubs fold, because they will be gone forever.
You can listen to the full interview on the podcast.
The GAA have yet to respond to our requests for comment regarding the Arthurs case.