Balls.ie has learned that Jamie Carragher is willing to pay the €2,000 fine imposed upon Longford GAA club Dromard for hosting Carragher's soccer school on their ground last August in the form of a charitable donation.
Dromard were informed two weeks ago that they were to be fined for contravening Rule 5.1 of the association's rules, relating to the misue of GAA grounds. The soccer school was run by local soccer side UCL Harps, and was moved to the GAA grounds to allow more kids sign up for the camp.
Dromard's appeal of the fine has failed owing to confusion surrounding the window of appeal. The Longford club were erroneously informed by a member of the association that the club had three working days to submit the appeal, only to subsequently realise too late that the window of appeal was in fact three calendar days.
We spoke to an Irish representative of Jamie Carragher's Soccer Schools who revealed that he has recommended to Dromard GAA last night that they write to the GAA putting on record their disappointment that the appeal has not been upheld along with a request that the GAA convert the fine into the form of a charitable donation.
Should the GAA agree to this, the association will be free to choose the charity, and Jamie Carragher will pay the charitable donation to the branch of that charity closest to Dromard.
We understand that Carragher is not prepared to see a community club end up out of pocket over this issue.
We also understand that Dromard submitted a letter to the GAA yesterday, although it is not believed to be related to the above.
The imposition of the fine has, understandably, caused a lot of controversy around Dromard. Gerry Sheridan, who has been involved in the club for over forty years and along with training the Junior squad, he currently sits on the club's finance committee.
Sheridan told Balls.ie that the club cannot afford to pay the fine, calling it "unfortunate" and "disappointing":
As any club will tell you, it is is tough going. And to be hit with something like this is a blow, and obviously something else will suffer.
It is very confusing. The GAA will hide behind whatever rules are there. In hindsight we would have asked for special dispensation beforehand, although we probably wouldn't get it.
It is hard to fathom the rationale of it.
Among the plans to help pay for the fine is a Strictly Come Dancing fundraiser to be held at the Slieve Russell Hotel on the first weekend of May.
The Dromard area is geographically diverse, sitting on the border of Longford, Leitrim and Cavan. UCL, in fact, stands for Ulster, Connacht and Leinster. Sheridan says that the community spirit is created through the the local secondary school - Moyne Community School - and further strengthened through sport in the area.
There is a feeling locally that the GAA's imposition of the fine wrongly distinguishes the local soccer and GAA clubs from each other, when the reality is that the soccer club is run by men who have a strong GAA background.
We also spoke to UCL Harps chairman Enda Boylan, who owns the Goalpost Pub in nearby Arva and is a six-time county championship winner with Cavan side Gowna:
It's a joke for the GAA to do that, to fine them €2,000. I understand there are rules, but come on.
Sheridan also believes that the imposition of the fine is inimical to the development of gaelic football in the region. Many of the kids who enrolled in the camp also play GAA, with UCL Harps offering football up to U-17 level only, and Sheridan believes that a good relationship in which young players can play both codes is vital to retaining future gaelic footballers in the area:
The GAA has lost touch with country people. Rather than going by archaic rules you have to keep these together to keep soccer kids playing GAA. We have to work together to keep kids in the GAA.
As a result, the next camp will be held at the Longford rugby club, with Boylan admitting his disappointment that UCL were forced to move the camp out of their own local area.
The entire episode has also affected clubs outside of their community. Dromard were subject to the fine as their argument that the 3G pitch on which the camps were staged is a community resource was disregarded, as the property is deemed to be vested in the GAA.
As a result of this, one Donegal club spoke to the Jamie Carragher Soccer School to say that they are reconsidering an aspect of their relationship with the association.
The club in question are currently fundraising for a major building project. With the majority of funds collected, the club have the option of accepting a GAA grant to complete the project.
In light of the Dromard saga however, they are now considering rejecting the grant and instead delaying the project by a further year in order to complete the funding themselves. This, the club say, would be done in order to ensure they have full use of their own facility and its use cannot be influenced by the GAA.