Kicked to the curb

Stampeders punters Duncan O'Mahony (left) and Burke Dales shared the ball last season, a strange...

Stampeders punters Duncan O'Mahony (left) and Burke Dales shared the ball last season, a strange situation for a CFL club. SUN MEDIA/Brett Gundlock

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

It's quite possible there may not be a position in pro sports quite as insignificant as that of a backup punter.

So much so, in fact, that only one team in the Canadian Football League saw the wisdom of creating the role last year: The Calgary Stampeders.

Yes, in the midst of the league's inaugural season under the oh-so-airtight Salary Management System, former coach Tom Higgins saw the value of spending good cap money to bring in Duncan O'Mahony to challenge all-star punter Burke Dales.

The cost was far more than the accountants could show however, as the move upset an entire locker room, which generally got along almost as famously as all-world placekicker Sandro DeAngelis and Dales.

Introducing an out-of-shape reclamation project like O'Mahony to the mix made the organization look foolish, especially when it was clear Dales was the better punter. Still, the club continued it's misguided charade all season long, paying both punters while shuffling them on and off the playing roster.

Common sense finally prevailed yesterday when new head coach/GM John Hufnagel shocked no one by announcing O'Mahony wouldn't be back.

What was a surprise is the fact another team was willing to pay more than the 10 double dipped maple bats the Vipers received for pitcher John Odom last week.

Of all the teams to cough up something for basically nothing, the Eskimos stepped up yesterday to hand Calgary a conditional draft pick for the 31-year-old O'Mahony.

The Stampeders' one-sentence press release did not elaborate on whether the conditions revolved around O'Mahony showing up for camp or going AWOL as he did so famously en route to Winnipeg's camp in 2006. It was then O'Mahony made national headlines after failing to show up for a connecting flight in Calgary, going almost three days before contacting anyone. Later admitting it was a selfish move to let down the Bombers and let his family worry he may have been a victim of foul play, O'Mahony said the disappearance had something to do with being unsure whether he wanted to play anymore.

Rumours suggest it was a far more deep-rooted issue that led to his disappearance.

The good news in all this is that yesterday's swap shows Hufnagel has in fact re-introduced common sense to an organization that had lost its way in many aspects of daily operations.

Getting something for O'Mahony is a small coup in itself.

"The problem was, Burke was 100 times better, by far," said one player yesterday of the silliness surrounding last year's punting duo.

"I think Burke is the best in the league. He lets the ball hang up there for five seconds and it's easy to cover those 40 yards downfield. Duncan is a line driver and any returner will tell you they'd rather return O'Mahony's kicks."

Higgins continually suggested Dales needed to improve his directional punting, but there had to be something more at play.

"Maybe it was done to scare Burke, but I think it was more to stir the pot," said the player.

"Why would you want to do that in a locker-room that was pretty tight?"

Add to it the fact that O'Mahony allowed rumours to swirl about his disappearance by refusing to discuss it, and the Stamps clearly opened up a can of worms detrimental to the cause.

Hufnagel fixed that yesterday, and then some.


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