Charity blow as game is called off

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LAST Sunday’s Town v Country Charity game, which was due to take place at the St.Peter’s Ground, was called of at the eleventh hour following concerns over the non availability of insurance cover for the participating players.

Forty eight players had agreed to take part in the game which would have seen many of the top club and county stars from North Armagh compete to raise money for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Over the past four years the Town v Country Cup has raised over £4,700 for the SVP cause. But, on this occasion, St.Peter’s, the club who had agreed to lend their pitch after a committee meeting, decided to withdraw their offer. The news has come as a major blow to the St Vincent De Paul society in the run up to Christmas and particularly with the charity preparing to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

The event, which had been sponsored by the Lurgan Mail and Portadown Times, had been growing in stature and the Mail’s GAA correspondent Eugene Creaney said, “The decision St. Peter’s made would have to be respected and the decisions of clubs, who decided to stage the event in previous years, would have to be respected also. The organisers weren’t in the business of putting clubs under pressure but there was always a concern over player welfare from the initial launching of the event. So was there insurance cover in previous years? The initial year was under the remit of the North Armagh board but, with the board now dissolved, the players who were participating were instructed that the game didn’t fall under the normal Club or County insurance protocol.

“The players were basically told, as with many other similar charity games, that they were playing at their own risk,” added Eugene.

After hearing the news of the cancellation last Saturday evening, Benedict Lavery from the St Vincent de Paul Society said, “We are so grateful to have availed of the funds which the Town v Country Cup raised over the past four years, but being a St. Peter’s man myself I know the club’s committee didn’t take the decision to withdraw their ground lightly. You can understand the thinking behind it.”

With the word going out that the charity game was cancelled several County players from the North Armagh area were disappointed.

According to Eugene Creaney it would be unlikely to see the event taking place in the future as he explained. “County players in particular are out of season for a brief spell at the end of the club season and before the McKenna Cup competition. During the summer months they have a hectic schedule so, as things stand, the charity game could become a pleasant and rewarding memory for all the players, managers, officials and for the clubs who hosted it.

“I don’t know if an individual or club would run with the idea but I believe I have given it my best shot. The St Vincent de Paul Society and those who help them year in and year out will continue to strive to fight against poverty in the community which is no easy task. I have been amazed by the generosity they show to the most vulnerable in our society and I wish them good luck in their continued endeavours.”

Speaking on the decision of St. Peter’s to withdraw their playing pitch, Eugene Creaney added, “When St. Peter’s phoned to say their ground wasn’t available it did come as a bit of a blow. But their committee would obviously have thought things through in a careful manner. “You have to understand the implications had a player suffered a serious injury. Over the past four years all the players have come through unscathed but there was always a dread and, at times, you were contemplating the scenario of a player being injured. Inquiries had been made about private insurance, but the premiums were too expensive.”