Sunday, December 14, 2008

GAA Paying managers

The Sindo focuses on the GAA "hypocrisy" of failing to acknowledge the industry of paying managers to train club teams. Yes, the GAA's pig-headed refusal to acknowledge the situation is exasperating. Claiming that "All GAA members play and engage in our games as amateurs" is downright laughable. 

But, the Sindo's view that clubs are voluntarily scouring the country to find the best manager to land the county title is in most cases very far from the truth. A lot of the clubs are forced, yes forced, to pay someone to do the job.  When a club contacts 50 ex-players, ex-coaches and ex-managers all from within inside the club, to ask if they are interested in managing the senior team and receives 50 No answers, what the hell else is it to do, but spend its already meagre resources to pay someone to do the job. This is the sad reality the GAA finds itself in today.

GAA Club players

What exactly was  Keith Duggan trying to say about playing club games at this time of the year in the IT on Saturday?

The basic fate of club teams is they train like dogs in the blue cold of January and February and the best two football and hurling teams in Ireland play for their great prize on St Patrick's Day. League promotion and relegation duties are taken care of through the April showers.

Then, the sun comes out in May and the clubs are told to run laps until late September, when it is getting dark and rainy and the glories of the All-Ireland are finished with. It means most clubs worth their salt are training for practically every month of the year and that the truly great club franchises, like Crossmaglen Rangers, can go a full decade without taking a break from training.

What he should of said is that it is a disgrace and shouldn't be allowed to happen.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GAA Strategic Vision and Action 10 Plan 2009- 2015

"We wanted to make sure that the views of our volunteers would be the main influence when we drew up this plan." 
Páraic Ó Dufaigh, Ard Stiúrthóir

"It was developed by thousands of volunteers. It is the true voice of all our members and their vision for the future."
Criostóir Ó Cuana, Uachtarán Tofa

The methodology is simple. It is based on consulting the membership at all levels and enabling them to develop the plans of the Association for the future.

In 2016 we will be able to say:
“All units at all levels provide a coordinated programme of meaningful games for players, appropriate to their needs and abilities. All games are regulated so that players experience fair play and can take part in well-planned and scheduled games as part of a balanced lifestyle. We have in place a locally effective and efficient, nationally co-ordinated, fixtures planning system.”

Key project: Fixtures planning
Committee: we will appoint a National Fixtures Planning Committee (NFPC).
Three-year plan: We will put in place a three-year rolling National Fixtures Plan.
Fixtures planners: We will recruit and train volunteer fixtures planners at all levels of the Association. They will plan and monitor fixtures plans in all units.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time to form a Club Players' Association

It may have been tongue-in-cheek but the Sindo's call for a Club Players' Association merits serious consideration. 

"Much energy and ink is expended on the apparent indignities suffered by our unfortunate inter-county footballers and hurlers. But at least they're getting the opportunity to play. Pity the poor clubman, denied games when the pitches are good and forced into wars of attrition on days not fit for man nor beast when the weather can turn the game into a lottery".

Why do the County Board's let this happen? Why do the clubs tolerate this situation?
It's almost as if the GAA is conspiring to keep lads sitting around all summer and then drawing the club leagues and championships out as long as possible to keep players away from rugby and soccer. Nah, they surely wouldn't?

Croke Park has acknowledged this as a serious problem. But, as with all problems identified by Croke Park they needed to first write a report, The Club Fixtures Report (no copies available on the 'net). And now, it seems, on the basis of this report they are proposing a Charter to sort things out. Huh, a Charter?

Like some charter outlining the problem and calling on County Boards to make sure players have regular games is going to make a real difference. All we have to do is look at all the UN Charters for proof. Whatever we read in the papers about the threat posed to GAA by the best players opting for Aussie Rules, rugby or soccer, this is where the greatest danger to the future of the GAA lies. Players getting cheesed off because they have to wait until November to play the most important games of the season. What other sports have regular gaps of 3 months between rounds in their championships? 

But, lets be realistic. Nothing will change for the clubs so long as Croke Park, the County Boards and the GPA are the main stakeholders at national level. And the situation for the clubs will only worsen, if, more likely when, the GPA is officially recognised. 

As I've said before the Club Forum is a good start, but it's not enough, the situation of the vast majority of the GAA's members--the clubs and the club players--need a representative to speak and lobby on their behalf. Just look what that's done for the inter-county players. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ulster GAA is ahead of the game

Over 400 club volunteers will participate in the second Ulster GAA Club and Community Conference at the Europa Hotel, Belfast tomorrow.

This year’s conference is focused on improving the capacity of clubs and volunteers across the province as the theme of this year’s conference: “Strengthening community cohesion though the development of the GAA clubs and volunteers” underlines.

As part of the consultation process for the new Ulster GAA strategy 2009-2015 a specific part of the conference has been set aside where participants will take part in a one-hour club feedback forum were club officials can make their voice heard on the issues currently facing the GAA in the province of Ulster.

Every province should take note and follow suit.

Revealing Comments from Ó hAilpin

It's depressing to read about Frank Murphy's dictatorship versus the Liberation Player Rebels everyday. It's Séan Óg's turn to have a blast today on Setanta.

What Ó hAilpin's comments ultimately reveal is the growing tension between expectations of the elite players and standards in GAA. The GPA has been beating the GAA over the head with the stick that some administrators (officially) and managers (unofficially) get paid so why shouldn't they receive some financial incentives for their participation too. At the same time they are demanding that the game be run like a professional sport and that the conditions under which they train and play--from facilities, to medical advice, to nutrition etc.--should also be as high as any other professional sport out there. That's fair enough, given the time, effort and commitment they put into the game and the money generated from large attendances at matches.

But, if the GAA wants to protect funding for the majority of the people involved at local level, and rightly refuses to officially pay managers, then where are the mangers with the expertise and experience of a sufficiently high standard to meet the elite players' demands going to come from? Many county boards and clubs refuse to pay (and that's still the case with a lot out there despite the current perception...this is based on my own anecdotal evidence, just like the counter prevailing view) and look internally to appoint the best available.

The problem is that the players have deemed McCarthy "not good enough". That's the spark that has ignited this dispute, although it is now being used to settle a long running grudge between Murphy and the players.

How long before other county panels adopt the same attitude?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Players are the GAA’s crown jewels says GPA chief Farrell

Dessie's not one to let the opportunity for an argument pass by, and no doubt got his buddy and biographer, Potty to help him pen and a swift and acidic response to Paddy Heaney's piece (Time has come for GPA to stop asking for more).

Earlier this year Paraic Duffy pleaded for a better relationship between the GPA and those that do not share the same views, reminding the GPA that it is not helpful for them to "use dismissive or intemperate language towards those who hold a contrary view on player-related issues". That call certainly fell on deaf ears, even though Dessie says, he "tried to temper his response".

Dessie makes it clear that any formal recognition of the GPA will have to involve the GAA bankrolling the players' association so that it can apply for "an expanded package of player welfare services". Dessie's wish list of employment programmes, health services and education initiatives would make Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro proud. One further step on the slippery slope to professionalism.
Except Dessie thinks he can cloak the intention as a guise to protect Gaelic's amateur status. "We can safeguard our amateur status by ensuring we achieve excellence in the area of welfare" Dessie boldly claims. Because if you don't he warns "this has the potential to set us on another collision course with the GAA regarding sponsorship, TV and image rights". That's code for we want control over the money generated from these rights and we will strike if we don't get our way.

Most alarmingly, and this betrays Dessie's true vision for the GAA, he sees the GAA as a "product" which we must make the "best in the market" to compete with other codes.
Lord help us all.

Time has come for GPA to stop asking GAA for more

Paddy Heaney of the Irish News has had enough of Dessie's rants. (The full article is posted on

While I don't agree with everything he has to say, he makes some good points. 

If, as Dessie claims, it was all about the elite players--"Without them there is nothing" to quote from his speech at the GPA dinner on Friday-- then as Paddy says, why is the Railway Cup not a roaring success? Fair point.

And while Paddy acknowledges that the GAA hasn't always treated players so well, he explains how Alan Simpson, the Linfield goalkeeping coach, who was part of Ross Carr's backroom team for Down, was "overwhelmed by how well Down's county footballers were treated and hugely impressed by the way no expense was spared in meeting their needs". This echoes Babs Keating's comments that the Tipperary squad of 2007 weren't "left for anything" with the County Board spending €870,000--that's a lot of money--training teams with no success to show for it. 

And that's the part Dessie doesn't mention. He focuses on the empty part of the glass all the time. 

The GAA currently allocates nearly 50% of its income on expenses that are directly related to inter-county teams: 14%  on match and competition costs; 18% payments to counties (we know from the comments above how most of that is spent); and 14% on player welfare. (Source is GAA Annual Report 2008

Dessie states that the GAA is going to have to fund the GPA--and pay Dessie's salary!

If the GAA, ultimately, does end up having to fund the GPA then another part of the Association is going to have to pay--that will mean a reduction in funding for facilities, or funding for coaching and games development. 

Then the real losers will be the clubs and volunteers who work so hard to train and coach future generations of inter-county players.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Europe's GAA season ends

The final tournament of the European Gaelic Football season was played in Maastricht last Saturday. Belgium GAA won the tournament and secured the European championship

The Irish Times had a great feature on growing interest in Gaelic games in Asia last Saturday. As in Asia there's a great social dimension to involvement in GAA in Europe, but that shouldn't take away from the high standard of football played and the commitment of those involved. Traveling to The Hague, Maastricht, Munich, Paris, Rennes and Budapest to play GAA may sound a little glamorous (the GAA glamorous!), but it also takes a lot of time and can be quite costly for those playing.

A big "well done" to Belgium for their victory and to all those involved in European GAA in 2008. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

GAA can't compete, shouldn't try to compete

Who's the Irish Independent journalist writing under the alias ""? Any ideas?

He seems to be implying today that as long as GAA remains amateur it won't be able to compete for young talent with Aussie Rules, soccer or rugby.  

And how exactly does "the.couch" think Gaelic could "compete" as a career choice if it did become professional? 

The GAA will never be able to match the earnings or marketing exposure of these professional sports. Surely, if GAA did become professional then those talented enough to choose whether to continue playing Gaelic for a few grand or to play one of the other sports professionally for pots of filthy lucre are then going to make their choice based on financial considerations. Soccer players, for one, are not known for their loyalty in choosing clubs over money.  

So how would the GAA be any better off than it is now?

An Spalpin on the Cork mess

An Spailpín is always worth a read. Today's article on the so-called "Cork hurlers" merits a few moments of your time.

Not only is he handy with the prose, but also with photoshop, as the above photo shows!

I wish, however, he'd enable the comments function so that others can contribute.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

GAA It's all glocal

Think globally and act locally they say. Seems like the GAA's taken that to heart too.

But, while it makes for a good story, having to dash back from Mexico for a county final in November is a disgrace. So what if Wexford got to the All-Ireland final for the first time since I don't know when. 

Why do club players have to sit around all summer and then cut their holidays short to play in the depths of winter? Does anyone care or is anyone trying to rectify this situation?

Friday, October 31, 2008

GAA out, GPA in

Just as Croke Park is distancing itself (that shouldn't be too hard with most of them Down Under right now!) from the now annual feud in Cork, the GPA, has the Speedos and goggles on, and wants to dive in at the deep end.

Dessie reckons the GPA has a role to represent the players in the dispute and that likewise, Croke Park, could represent the County Board. And hey presto, we could avoid this type of situation. Dessie's using the quarrel, once again, as an opportunity to call on the GAA to recognise the GPA. Is Donal Og in cohoots with Dessie and engineering the whole thing so this could happen? 

That's a bit far fetched even for the biggest conspiracy theory fans, but it is jarring to see Dessie jump in and claim that the players are free to walk away "as ultimately it is volunteering and done on an amateur ethos". That's totally out of kilter with Dessie's usual spin that the county players are enslaved on the county teams and therefore deserving of money to compensate them for being so badly exploited. 

GAA Club Maps

Almost all of Ireland's GAA clubs have now been marked on Google maps. Want to find your way to Kiltoom to watch an Inter-provincial match. Maybe not. More likely you're heading down the country to play a friendly against another club to fill time the six to ten weeks that usually divides championship matches in the GAA and want to know where it's located. Now it's easy to find. 

Well done Milford GAA!!

Player power in the GAA

As Hurling Blog says, the "prima donnas" in Cork are at it again. And as he rightly calls it, it's all about player power. Gerald McCarthy makes that clear in his statement. The players are abusing their high public status and forgetting how they got to be inter-county stars. 

No matter what the truth behind how McCarthy's appointment was handled it's hard to argue with his position on what he considers the nub of the problem:

"The fundamental issue here is whether players have a right to effectively appoint their own managers or veto the appointment of managers. I don't believe they should. It is undesirable, unworkable and untenable. It is a basic truth in sport that managers manage and players play. For Cork hurling to capitulate to a demand that would not be entertained in any other sport would be massively damaging to hurling here".

Consult them by all means, but that should be the limit to their involvement. Makes sense.

The problem in Cork is that the players, with their rancorous relationship with the County Board, clearly no longer respect the County Board as a legitimate authority to make these decisions. 

All GAA is local

Looks like an interesting series on the GAA to be broadcast on Setanta from Sunday onwards. I'll have to ask the relations in Dublin to set the video recorder as am particularly interested to see Setanta's take on the fourth and final episode "All GAA is local". The caption is intriguing "All GAA is local" examines the contrast between the glamour of Gaelic Games at an inter-county level and the ethos of amateurism and volunteerism that continues to sustain the GAA at local level".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

GAA What the real story should be

Frank Roche in de Herald recounts a history of the recent violence in the International Rules series. The appropriately titled "The Beast is Coming Back" is describes some of the outrageous Aussie carry-on, while also fairly exposing some of the hypocrisy of the GAA taking the high moral ground on violence in sport. We've seen it all before though and there's been at least two articles every day for the past two weeks speculating if the games will degenerate into something more appropriate for an American extreme fighting cage.

The real story is elsewhere, however, but receives little attention. According to Frank, himself, on another page -- ignore the piece about those Cork langours -- Wicklow SHC champions Glenealy are threatening not to contest this year's final against Carnew after the game was fixed for this Sunday, despite the presence of Leighton Glynn, Glenealy's star, in Australia with the International Rules squad. Glenealy have threatened not to appear on Sunday. Rightly so.

That's the real story. That's what the media should be writing about. An important final for serious GAA players, two clubs and thousands of real GAA supporters is being disrupted. And for what?  

But, that's only half the story. Why hasn't a county which got knocked out of the All-Ireland championship in early summer not yet played its county final? What the hell have they been doing all summer!? Why can't the GAA not put in place a proper scheduled season? When are they going to start paying more respect to the majority of its members? That's the real disgrace, not some bastardised nonsense thousands of miles away.

Liam Hayes for manager

Liam Hayes has the experience. All-Ireland medals in '87 and '88, finalist in '90, and '91 as captain. Three NFL titles, an All Star honour in '88 and three matches against the Aussies in '84, '86 and '87. Add to that a few county titles with Skryne and it makes a fine footballing CV. 

But, as a manager. Carlow for two years. 

Yup. That's all there is to say. 

He cited "business and family commitments" as the reason for quitting that position rather than his blatant failure to make any progress with the Carlow team, as was clearly signalled by defeat to Leitrim in the Tommy Murphy Cup just before his resignation.

Hayes at one stage even suggested Carlow change their colours reasoning that they hadn't been successful with their triple colour combo.  So it's not just in his newspaper columns that he puts forward ideas that make the rest of the country wonder if he pens his pieces from under a rock on Mars.  

His nomination as manager for the Meath position is totally out of the blue. Literally, as it was Skryne, his blue-jerseyed home club that reportedly proposed him.  I don't think there's many in Meath that fancy him for the job, although rumour has it that Meath's sponsor, Menolly Homes, is demanding a high profile man for the job. Maybe they think that's the only way they'll sell a few houses this year.

I'm sure it's all a misunderstanding. My theory is that Skryne, they too are looking for a new man to take over the team, phoned Liam inquiring whether he was interested in the manager's position. Liam, being Liam, am sure, presumed they meant the Meath job and of course, he'd be honoured if they put his name forward. 

They couldn't really turn around and say "No, not that manager's job", now, could they?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More nonsense from "Down Under"

Kevin Sheedy, who along with Jim Stynes, has probably done more damage to the International Rules series than any of the on field barbarism, has the shamelessness to preach fair play, honesty and integrity AND call Sean Boylan a leprechaun in the same breath. 

And then there's the naive hope that sitting the lads down for a bit of tucker together before the game will help to keep proceedings between the teams civil. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

GAA Clubs on Google Earth

This is a great initiative. Help him find the last few!

Not sure how to find the pitches on Google Earth though?

I'm locating all the clubs in the country and putting their locations on Google Earth/Google maps. I have the vast majority done now over 1600, with just 20 or so left to do. What I'm looking for is the exact location of the clubs pitch. 

The following links are to mapping sites, where aerial photographs can be used to pinpoint pitches. They both have a double 6 digit map reference, and this is what I am looking for(centered on pitch)

For Northern Ireland, follow this link HERE
For Rep Ireland, follow this link HERE

The following are the clubs I'm still trying to locate:

Henry Joy McCrackens - Falls Park???, 
John Mitchels - Pantridge Rd?, Brians Well Rd?, Twinbrook?
Michael Dwyers - Falls Park?, Twinbrook?, 
Sean McDermotts - Cherryvale??

Grange GFC - around Fermoy somewhere, but I can't find it.
Youghal - can't find it.
Dripsey - new club, new pitch?
Ballyphehane GFC - around Tramore Rd?
Rochestown GFC - closer to passage???
Fr O'Callaghans - North side/south side???
Brian Dillons - Murmont Rd/Ave?
Shandun Rovers/Gurranbraher - Any Pitch?

Coleraine Eoghan Rua - University Pitches or do they have their own now???

Gale Rangers - Near Listowel?
St Pats East Kerry HC - which pitch do they play on most regularily?

Naomh Brid HC - same as Round Towers???

Glengar - Near Doon?
Knock - near Roscrea???

St Josephs - any pitch in town, training even?

St Pauls - near Waterford Crystal?

Bradley's bang on: Scrap Aussie nonsense

Colm Bradley usually has something sensible to say. This week is no different. 

"It is time to bin the International Rules Series. It does nothing to enhance or promote Gaelic Games or culture and is of zero benefit, except in monetary terms, to the GAA."

Hear, hear.

Look at all the disruption it causes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

International Rules folly to muck up club fixtures

There's many reasons why the International Rules series shouldn't go ahead. But the major one in my book is the disruption it causes to club fixtures at the most important time of the year. It's hard enough sitting on the sidelines for months waiting for your inter-county stars to return from the All-Ireland final so that your own club championship can continue. 

But, postponing matches to cater for the International Rules takes the matter too far. Surely the real GAA should come first?  

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Rewards" for Gaelic players

Would have liked to have commented on this earlier, but was prevented from doing so by my participation in a GAA tournament at the weekend. So, the excuse for my tardiness is a good 'un.

Isn't it great being an inter-county GAA star? 

Eh, no. Or so we were told not so long ago, during those heedy Celtic Tiger days. Back then the intercounty players were in a terrible situation. Terrible, terrible altogether. They, unlike everyone else in the country, were unable to surf the economic tsunami that swept over Ireland. You see their commitment and application to GAA prevented them from putting the extra hours in to advance their careers and earn some overtime. And some of them felt bitter about it. They were missing out and they were entitled to compensation for their efforts, something "tangible" for their dedication and sacrifice to GAA. 

But, now. Now that jobs in the construction industry drying-up and with Gar O'Donnell, along with some GAA players, packing their bags for Philadelphia, there's something that can save some of the lads a self-imposed exile on foreign soil, but only if they play GAA.

At least that's what Jason Ryan is hoping! Getting a small cheque for opening the odd Super Valu down the country doesn't seem so bad after all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

GAA International

How often have we heard the Compromise Rules series defended as the only international outlet for our beloved national games? Merde, if you'll pardon my French. 

When one thinks of GAA played abroad it's natural to think of the UK, the USA or Australia and the strong Irish diaspora living there. 

Well, not anymore.  It's time to broaden your mind. Take for example a French woman playing Gaelic football for Paris Gaels who first learned how to play GAA in Shanghai. Yes, Shanghai. China. Globalisation went that deep it also touched the GAA. 

Despite their number across the city ten years ago in Madrid it wasn't possible to find an Irish bar that showed GAA. Now there's even a team in Pamplona. In the last ten years in Europe GAA seeds have taken flight across the continent and numerous clubs from Brest to Budapest have taken sprout:
  • Spain - Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Pamplona 
  • France - Brest, Rennes, Paris, Lyons
  • The Netherlands - The Hague, Amsterdam, Maastricht
  • Belgium - Brussels
  • Austria - Vienna
  • Denmark - Copehagen
  • Germany - Munich, Dusseldorf
  • Sweden - Gotenburg
  • Luxembourg
  • Hungary - Budapest
While it is true that some of these clubs rely on the Irish community living abroad for their existence the game is also taking root in some parts through the efforts and gra for the game of the locals. In Rennes there's only one Irish person permanently involved in the game and yet Rennes will host 20 teams from across Europe next weekend for the European Gaelic Football Shield and Championship semi-finals. Not only have the local GAA enthusiasts planned and organised the tournament, but they've also succeeded in promoting and developing the GAA in schools in Brittany. And so, for the first time two schools from Rennes and Vannes will participate in the tournament. (There's more details here in the European Irish.)

The GAA is involved and has put some structure in place to promote Gaelic games in Europe. Still, one can't help wondering, instead of spending lots of money to send GAA players long distances to play a bastardised game that's not even GAA, would it not be better to spend a bit more money on those who want to play Gaelic games instead?

Describing yourself as a GAA man up North

There's been a raft of articles recently about the GAA in Northern Ireland. Tyrone's All-Ireland final victory and the arson attacks on GAA grounds have been in the headlines sparking questions about what the GAA stands for, what it represents, and if it's doing enough to open to the Unionist community.

Describing yourself up north as a G  A  A man--I've never liked it when pronounced gah, I always thought there were some negative connotations when heard it said that way--has many more implications that it does down south. Not only are you a bog hopping culchie, but generally considered a dangerous Fenian one at that. 

The Belfast Telegraph has been weighing in with a series of articles some positive, some negative, all demonstrating that we've a long, long way to go yet. Pity there's not more like Ed Curran, the editor-in-chief of the Telegraph group, who today provides the best analysis on situation yet. Well worth a read.

While I'm on this subject...there's a great story about Paddy, who was walking down the street in Belfast and he discovers a gun pressing against the back of his head. A voice says, "Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

Well, Paddy has to think fast. He says, "I'm a Jew." 

And he hears a voice say, "I've got to be the luckiest Arab in the whole of Belfast."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

How long can the GAA hold out?

Mark Simpson shows his shallow knowledge of Gaelic games (Gaelic stars do it for pride not cash). He forgot to mention the biggest threat of all: the one from within and am not talking about the GPA, but also the GAA's growing obsession with increasing its revenue. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Only a Kerryman

Is this the first All-Ireland since the introduction of the backdoor system where none of the provincial winners will be represented? After a tough days work am too lazy to look it up so maybe some Jimmy Magee out there will inform me...

What's the point in winning the provincial championship, if you're not Sligo? Padraig Joyce's suggestion that the winners of the provincial championship get a home quarter-final draw should be looked at. But then how do the provincial winners get a home draw when they kick up a stink when they're not scheduled to play in Croke Park for the quarter-final? Only in the GAA.

Whatever the merits of the current system, there's nothing like a Kerryman to put things in perspective. Or maybe not. The Kerryman, the newspaper that is, reckons, that unlike in 2005, when they were defeated by Tyrone in the final, this year the team is well prepared. Why?Because...wait for 2005 poor auld Kerry only had five games to "hone" their preparation in comparison to Tyrone's nine. Whereas this year they've had six while Tyrone have played seven. So, that's much fairer altogether that is. 

Would Kerry have won 35 All-Ireland's getting out of Ulster every year? 

Whatever you do, don't ask a Kerryman!

Dublin's "Blue Book"

Kevin McStay reckons that the "Blue Book" was an embarassment and it's difficult to argue with him on that: "as a handbook it had the potential to be of benefit but once it strayed into pyscho-babble and bouts of paranoia, it was on to a loser". 

Some parts have been published apparently. The only bit I could get my eyes on was the instructions to players  about the jobs they have to do whether they are defenders, midfielders or forwards (over on Laoistalk forum). Laying down expectations and the demands that are expected from each player. Fair enough. 

But, where the "Blue Book" goes too far, and where the GAA in general is gets of itself is in copying from professional sports. Copying the best of professionalism. Nothing wrong with that. Not doing it right. That is the problem. 

The Blue Book is a perfect example. It's based on the idea of the Black Book, which Clive, sorry Sir Clive (nearly forgot he's a subject, not a citizen) Woodward introduced to the England rugby team to prepare them to win the rugby world cup. Which you'll remember they did. So in this case the Black Book was universally acclaimed as a great idea. He dedicates a chapter to it in his book Winning! Except in the Black Book there was no creed, no nonsense and bullshit. Instead it was about setting standards, goals, objectives and a philosophy of play. It contained a Code of Conduct e.g. switching off mobile phones for team meetings and punctuality, information for players on policies and procedures, fitness testing, media and medical support etc etc. 

Yes, there was some inspirational sayings and photographs. Afterall who reads books with no pictures? But none of the pyscho-babble that McStay describes is in the Blue Book.  It was to prepare the players about practical matters.

Dublin's Blue Book in contrast, at a whopping 52 pages, sounds like a terrible ramble. I don't personally know any of the Dublin players, but if they are anything like any of the GAA teams I've played on a sheet of A4 would probably have done the job just as well.

What was in England's black book?
  • Objectives for players, head coach and management.
  • A code of conduct for everyone.
  • Team policies and procedures.
  • Notes about getting ready for an international match.
  • A "Who's Who" of players, staff and officials.
  • Information about the support teams: medical, technical, media, sponsorship.
  • A schedule up to the World Cup.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Legendary Davy Fitz

I always thought that Davy Fitz was at least half a bubble off plumb. 

Unfair, I know. This opinion however, didn't adequately consider the passion and intensity which Davy brings to the game. The man is clearly ga(a)ga(a) about hurling and his excessive enthusiasm has made him one of hurling's greatest goalkeepers and is now bringing him success as a manager. 

He's clearly lost none of his fire or commitment as this half time talk shows.

It also calls to mind a certain D'Unbelievables sketch...

Come on Waterford! Hell for leather!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

GAA-AFL "Bash-up" is back

What do you get when you combine real estate listings with geographic data from Google Maps? A really useful, new and distinct web service that is generally referred to as a mashup.

Similary, take two different sports Gaelic football and Aussie rules, mix them together and voila, a comletely new "sport" that is not so much a mashup, as a bashup. Except, it's no feckin' good to anyone.

The GAA confirmed today that there will be a two-game International Rules Series between the countries in October of this year on October 24th in Perth and October 31st in Melbourne.

Maybe the GAA could invite Fiorentina's calcio players and make it a tri-nations tournament...There's a ball there somewhere, I swear!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

GAA alienating the grassroots

I see that Sean Moran today is wondering if the GAA HQ is in danger of alienating the grassroots. He asks if the GAA has run too far ahead of its membership in streamlining everything from revenue generation to the commercial exploitation of Croke Park.

Yes would be my answer, but thanks to the Irish Times' backward subscription model I can't read the rest of the article and don't know of anywhere close by that I can buy a copy of the "Protestant rag" as Frank McCourt's mother referred to it (I live abroad, you see). I'll try over on, hopefully someone has copied it to there to generate a discussion.

It's terrible that 2008 has seen the emergence of the term "grassroots" to describe the majority of GAA members. Before there was no distinction among GAA members, nor a need to distinguish between them, but since the "grants" fiasco and the GAA HQs money-hungry approach which has created difficulties for the local GAA we are seeing the term used more and more frequently. It's a sad sign of the times and the direction the GAA is taking.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The GAA to go "Green"

At last. A GAA headline that we can get excited about.

The GAA and ESB have announced a major environmental initiative-Cúl Green-aimed to make Croke Park a carbon-free stadium.

It's great to see the GAA taking the lead and raising awareness. For once they are ahead of the game!

Maybe they could do like Manchester City and install a wind turbine that supplys energy to the stadium and to thousands of nearby homes. Sustainable energy, a significant contribution to tackling to global warming and a means of buying-off the objections of the Croke Park Residents Association!

An Spailpin v. Martin Breheny. No contest

Read An Spailpin's preface to the 2008 Championship and then read Martin Breheny's piece on the same subject.

I hope that you, like me, will be watching the GAA An Spailpin describes this summer, not craving for the Sky Sports version that Martin Breheny would prefer to see created.

GAA Money from Opening Croke Park

Although GAA HQ will not divulge how much money they are giving to Antrim GAA to build their GAA centre of excellence at least it is a sign that the they are delivering on their promise to the grassroots.

Of course, this news is not exciting enough for the Indo or the Irish Times so it was left to BBC Sport Gaelic Games to report it.

It does make one wonder, however, why GAA HQ cannot publish the sum of money they are contributing and make a bit of noise over their contributions to such projects. It's an opportunity missed to generate postive coverage and show what the GAA, unlike soccer, rugby etc. does with its money.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The GAA and the Six O'Clock News Effect

Tommy Lyons. What can I say about Tommy Lyons? Not a lot, except that his 'best before' date is usually about one and half years after taking over a football team. By that time the relationship between Tommy and the team has usually decayed and is no longer healthy. 

His comments about the suspensions dished out to Dublin and Meath, however, merit some attention. Lyons believes the GAA were very heavy handed. Rightly, so I believe (before you holler in protest I'm from Meath so there's no bias in my opinion)--it's time to stamp out violence in GAA, in whatever form it manifests--tussle, scuffle, shemozzle or brawl-- once and for all.

Lyons reckons the only reason why the Association reacted so forcefully was because of the prominence the incident received on RTE. "I've always said make the six o'clock news in the GAA and you have a problem," Lyons stated. "Whether it's Semple-gate or Parnell-gate or whatever other gate you want. Make the six o'clock news and you are in trouble and it's as simple as that".

Tommy's definitely on to something. Dublin and Meath were made an example of, although Armagh and Cork players had a tussle of their own that went unpunished. Same day, same competition, same sport, pretty much the same incident. But, not the same penalties dished out. Apparently, a Dublin supporter made his displeasure with this injustice clear to Nicky Brennan in Parc Tailteann last Saturday, with a banner which showed the two incidents in a photographic montage and posed the question -- "Spot the Difference?"

Tackling discipline in the GAA cannot just be a-seen-to-be-taking-action show for the national media because the cameras were turned on. It's got to be consistent and across the board--intercounty, club, junior, underage, wherever it rears its ugly head. There are enough officials -- one referee, two linesmen, and four umpires--to capture the majority of what occurs on and off the ball to make it possible.  

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The fascination of football (soccer)

The GAA may have its problems, but at least, as Kevin Myers reminded us this week, we don't have to loathe ourselves for our interest in Gaelic games. Boggers, culchies, whatever we may be, we don't feel sordid or seamy because of our fascination with the GAA. 
Kevin Myers"I despise the entire modern obsession with soccer, with its flash, overpaid, oafish stars, and their brainless shopaholic molls; and, worst of all, their cretinous tribes of supporters. And that's the real measure of the power of soccer in modern culture. Even the unwilling are drawn to take sides. We cannot resist experiencing powerful feelings over contests in which we logically should have no emotional or intellectual interest." 
What struck me is how Myers' opinion of modern football resonates with Michel Platini's. Remember him? Socks rolled down to his ankles, shirt untucked, almost ambling about the pitch--the antithesis of today's athletic, brylcreem-sponsored, diamond-studded footballers. 
Platini's irreverent style on the pitch has now been transformed, as President of UEFA, into displeasure for what he considers the perversion of football. There's something wrong, he says, with modern football's relationship with money and he wants to change that. Platini knows that football will not survive if it continues with its commercial indulgence and extravagance at the expense of the grassroots. Platini wants to salvage "the game" and "let the fascination of sport prevail over the fascination for money". 
There's not much razzle dazzle in GAA. There's no fraud. Nobody feels compelled to watch it. And the GAA is all the better for it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

GAA Clubs need a Voice

Some think that Of One Belief lost at Congress, others believe the GAA did. No matter.

No, wait! Before you depart, I'm not going to get into grants, or expenses, or whatever we should call it.

Of One Belief may be no more, but their brief existence taught us an important lesson. Although vilified and pillorised by some, with Martin Breheny leading the lynch mob, Mark Conway and Of One Belief were a critical counterbalance to the money-driven and elitist GPA in the "grants" "debate".

Without Of One Belief there was no other point of view than the GPA's. Croke Park and the GAA hierarchy were easily cowed by the GPA threats and did their utmost to whisper through an agreement with them. Nicky and the suits certainly made no effort to inform the GAA members of the details of the agreement and what the potential consequences were. wasn't until Of One Belief was formed that some semblance of a debate began and the pro's and con's of the agreement were properly aired. 

Now that the GPA have got what they wanted they have firmly established themselves as an important and acknowledged constituency within the GAA, the next step will be to recognise them as the inter-county (always important to make that distinction) players official union. Talks to do so are already under way. Not before its time, some would say, and that's a fair point. 

Official recognition will give the GPA a place at the top table and an even greater influence on the future direction of the GAA. Ordinary GAA members, in contrast, who make up the vast majority of the GAA's numbers, are increasingly disenfranchised from GAA decision-making. The GAA prides itself on being a democratic organisation, but the clubs are too far removed from decision-making at Congress and Central Council to have any real say. With the exception of the "important questions" like the Ban, Rule 42 etc., the clubs are not consulted on the running of the GAA and have little, if no, impact. The Club Forum is a good start, but it's not enough.

With the GPA's emergence as a force in GAA decision-making we can expect that the frequency of occasions when what's good for the GPA is not necessarily good for the rest of the association to increase. The problem is that there will be no voice for the majority of the GAA's members to put their point of view across. If the media wants a quote it needs someone to go to. Without a spokesperson or focal point for the majority of the GAA's members the GPA will once again have free reign in the national media for their bullyboy tactics.

But, the clubs don't have direct representation, despite desperately needing it. There's a whole range of problems, from fixtures (some go weeks and even months without matches during the summer freeze) to volunteering, which are neglected because Croke Park and the County Boards' give more weighting to the inter-county scene. 

The weight of representation is against the clubs. With so many diverse interests in the game the GAA cannot continue to speak for them all. That needs to change.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The grant that never was is approved

The "grants" rigmarole finally come to a close yesterday when the GAA Annual Congress rubber stamped the deal. 

As Peter Quinn said on TV a few weeks ago, the decision-making machinery of the GAA Congress replicates that of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China -- the important decisions are decided before the meeting, so the outcome was no great surprise. Also like the GAA the Chinese also use the occasion to decide leadership changes; review and change, if necessary, the Party's Constitution; and select the Central Council, a powerful decision making body, the authority of which, according to its spokesperson Danny "Sum Ting Wong?" Lynch, should never be questioned. 

Trying to get an accurate account in the GAA annals of how this decision was brought about is going to be very difficult because of the Rashomon effect. Rashomon is a Japanese film which has become "a byword for any situation in which the truth of an event is difficult to verify due to the conflicting accounts of different witnesses". We've seen this time and time again during this debate with many blinkered views [Martin Breheny wins the overall prize for his perverse and twisted interpretation] of what was happening.

In general there are two versions of how the GAA bungled from "grants" to "eligible expenses":

The hey presto, Nicky Brennan, Croke Park and GPA version, which would have you  believe that they knew what they were doing all along-- that it was "rubbish" and "farcical" to argue that the grant was a threat to the GAA's amateur status -- despite the radically rehashed deal emerging from the depths of the GAA's "open and transparent" hierarchy. "Didn't we tell you all along that we wouldn't sign up to any deal with the GPA that would harm the GAA's amateur status?" Then why are all the poor journalists so confused that they still refer to it as a grant?

The other is Joe Brolly's analysis, subsequently endorsed by the DRA:

1. GAA announces grants deal with GPA
2. Of One Belief launch legal challenge to grants/pay for play warning of dangers of EU law
3. GAA retain Alex Schuster, law lecturer at Trinity College and recognized authority on European community law, who  clearly advised them that grants would mean the players were involved in economic activity, which would mean that community law applied 
4. GAA buys time at DRA through technicalities and unavailability of key witnesses
5. GAA junks the original "Grants" scheme and develops the elaborate, complicated, wholly incomprehensible bureaucratic nightmare that is the "eligible expenses" scheme.

Despite the calls that it's time to move on the amateur, shamateur, professional debate is not going to go away. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

RTÉ.ie is to Stream GAA Congress Live Around the World

The emergence of broadband internet and mobile devices as a means for fans to view sports content both live and on demand is radically transforming the media landscape. Although it's fanciful to think that the GAA would at be the forefront of embracing this digital revolution, they are at least getting in on the act with RTÉ.ie set to stream this year’s GAA Annual Congress live around the world on this Saturday April 12th.

Now, while the content may not be too exciting, it's a start at least and means that GAA supporters from Brisbane to Berlin won’t miss any of the key decisions made, including the election of a new president to take over from Nickey Brennan in April 2009. I hope this is a success and that the GAA realizes that it would be worthwhile for them to stream GAA live overseas for the many, many emigrants who would like to watch their counties play but don't have an option to see the game live, or have to pay $20 dollars into a grubby Irish pub at 6 a.m. to see the game. The higlights of National League Games shown on RTÉ.ie are great for those of us living abroad. Why can't it be extended so that those overseas can pay to watch games live?

It also seems that quite a lot of GAA members closer to home could do with keeping an eye on proceedings because GAA democracy is not functioning as it should. According to Nicky Brennan, the motion in favour of teams in Division 4 of the National Football League making a return to the All-Ireland qualifiers (from Wicklow to be debated this weekend) was passed by a previous Congress without many people realizing it was passed or the reasons for doing so. What does that tell us about decision-making in the GAA?

This year’s Congress takes place in the Radisson Hotel in Sligo and RTÉ.ie will be streaming day 2 live from 10am to 4.30pm. The full details are availabe on RTÉ should you wish to tune in.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

GAA messing with fixture schedules for TV

GAA 2008: Kerry Cork postponement a sign of the times
My fear when the GAA announced the recent TV deals was that the TV companies would start dictating the throw-in times to the GAA and that this would have serious consequences on attendances at club matches.

But, to see the GAA itself altering fixtures in this manner is far worse. They are completely obsessed with television coverage. It's not as if it is the only way of promoting Gaelic games. 

I know there are lots of members of the GAA out there who like watching the big matches--the Munster Hurling Final is one of those must-see occasions for all GAA members. But, like you say Sean, the Munster Football Final certainly isn't.

DRA endorses Of One Belief Action

Although the final decision of the DRA went against Of One Belief, they can take some consolation that their role in playing the devil's advocate met with the approval of the DRA Tribunal.
The real GAA men making up the DRA's Tribunal that heard the case-- Chairman, Michael O'Connell, son of the legendary Mick O'Connell, Mick Loftus, former GAA President, and Damian Maguire--all but praised "the bona fide attempts [by Of One Belief] to ensure that no inroads have been made on the amateur ethos."Can the same be said of Born Again Amateur Dessie Farrell? Is he being honest and sincere when he says that he now subscribes to the amateur ethos of the GAA? How long will his renewed commitment to these values and beliefs last?
The DRA Tribunal didn't feel that Mark Conway and Of One Belief were talking nonsense or that this debate was unnecessary. Quite the contrary, they consider that Of One Belief's actions have assisted in "the multilateral effort that produced" the final scheme--"the finely crafted document." The Stalinist attitude shown by some, like Martin Breheny, in describing Of One Belief as anti-player, is pathetic. Is everyone who campaigns against the Lisbon Treaty in the upcoming referendum in Ireland being anti-European? I think not. Try telling that to Martin et al though.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The GAA "Mes que un club"

FC Barcelona likes to claim it is "more than just a club". To some of its fans and players, it is a symbol of Catalonia. "To defend Barca is to defend Catalonia".

Many Catalans define themselves through their club. Much like the GAA, particularly in Northern Ireland, it is an expression of their cultural identity. History moulded the club into a civic entity and an extension of politics. From the beginning, FC Barcelona (Barca) had an active cultural and political programme. The club participated in the most significant movements for Catalan autonomy campaigning for Catalan schools, for Catalan language courses for club members and, no doubt, some forms of Catalan dancing too.  Barca's identification with Catalan independence and nationalism were bound together permanently by the Franco dictatorship; with the Catalan flag and language banned, their only sanctuary was the Nou Camp stadium where Catalan's could evade Franco's oppression and express their vision of a Catalan nation with its own identity.  

Historically, the Spanish national football team has not had much appeal in Catalonia. The lack of enthusiasm is highly political. Their distaste for the Spanish national team is proportional to their desire for Catalan independence. Disapproval of the GAA in the Unionist community is somewhat similar. They feel uncomfortable, if not threatened, by the political overtones of the sporting organisation and its representation for a united Ireland.

Fermanagh GAA player and journalist Colm Bradley wants that to change. He would like to see the GAA do more to reach out to Unionists. His appeal seems reasonable. He's not asking the GAA to dilute its cultural aspects, like the promotion of the Irish language or Gaelic culture, just to tone down certain rules like Rule 2 for example, which states: "The Association is a national organisation which has a basic aim of strengthening the national identity of a 32-county Ireland through the presentation of gaelic games and pastimes".

One doesn't have to read too far down the comments on Slugger O'Toole's posting on this topic to see that it's an explosive issue. If it's debate Colm Bradley wants then I wish him luck in keeping it civil. Cleansing the GAA of politics and symbolism would be a minefield--the names of GAA grounds, like Robert Emmets, the singing of "The Soldier's Song" and the flying of the Tricolour. Even just sniffing around these mines is enough to set people on both sides off.

There never will be agreement. There never will be an identifiable point when both sides consider the connotations neutral. Are some of the songs sung by Celtic FC supporters in Scotland "sectarian" or "Irish"? It depends who you ask. 

There's always going to be an "our" story and "their" story. You can't separate the GAA nor FC Barcelona from notions of community and identity. Yes, the GAA can and should take the first steps to be welcoming to Unionists, but there has to be some understanding and acknowledgement of the history and heritage of the GAA from the Unionist side, too.  

GAA still a cold house for Protestants, GaelicLife
A Different Ball Game--The Future of the GAA in Norther Ireland (Part 1, Part 2).

GAA McNamee Awards

The GAA is still accepting nominations for the 2007 McNamee Awards. The closing date is Tuesday, April 15th 2008.

Apparently, the McNamee awards are presented annually by the GAA in recognition of outstanding contributions made by individuals in the area of communications. The concept evolved as a result of the McNamee report published in 1971. 

I can't find any further information about the McNamee report on the web, apart from a reference that says it took 20 years to implement the findings, so if someone is knows some more, please fill us in.

Sadly, there's no category for bloggers, but then that's not surprising is it. :)

Awards will be made in the following categories:

  • Best Club Media Publication (club histories, yearbooks, annual reports etc)
  • Best GAA Website (county or club)
  • Best GAA Photograph
  • Best County Final Programme
  • Best County Media Presentation (to include Yearbooks, County Histories, Fixture Booklets, DVD's etc)
  • Best Local Radio Programme on a GAA Theme
  • Best Newspaper Article

All entries should be sent to:-

Patrick Doherty,

GAA Headquarters,

Level 6,

Páirc an Chrócaigh,


Websites can be nominated by email to 

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rossie mob let the GAA down

It didn't take long for my effort at trying to 'big up' GAA fans in comparison to those of a certain foreign sport to be exposed as a fraud. If I'd paid more attention to John Maughan's resignation yesterday I would have seen that it had less to do with results on the field, and more to to do with the ongoing abuse he has suffered from a mob of "Roscommon supporters". 

No manager deserves this kind of ugly treatment. It's sad to see in any sport, professional or amateur. The rabble who hurled abuse from the sidelines and waited outside the Roscommon dressing room on Sunday can only be described in the choice words of Paidi O'Se, who--under the influence of alcohol (still no excuse)--brutally referred to Kerry supporters, in an interview with Paul Kimmage, as "the roughest type of f***ing animals".  

Whatever your opinion of John Maughan--some took exception to his strutting the sidelines in his shorts (and they were short), as he did with Clare in 1992, others for his falling-out with the Mayo stars of the time--he's a real GAA man and deserves more respect and recognition than to be run out of town in this manner. An Spailpin Fanach has an interesting take on how how different things might have been for John: if it wasn't for a certain Meathman, life would have taken a radically different turn and John's life today would have been a lot rosier. 

Unfortunately, for John his managerial career continues to be marred by failure. And, unfortunately for the GAA, it seems that we, just like soccer, have a minority amongst us that disgrace and disappoint us all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

GAA troubles: some consolation

With spoongate, as Willie Joe has dubbed it, still fresh in the minds of Mayo GAA followers, the Mayo News decided to have a bit of April Fool's fun with stories of undercover stewards and segregation of fans next Sunday for the local derby between Mayo and Galway.
As GAA fans we're blessed that we can look back-- at what for the GAA was a serious crowd disturbance-- slap our thighs and have a bit of a laugh. Other sports fans are not so fortunate. The headlines following the Merseyside derby on Sunday are all about police inquiries into serious fan abuse of players, while in France the nation has recoiled in disgust, yet again, at the behaviour of Paris St. Germain's so-called supporters.
At Saturday's League Cup Final against a team from northern France, Racing Club de Lens, Paris supporters briefly displayed--because it was pulled down by stewards on the instruction of President Sarkozy who was attending the game--a long banner which said "Pédophiles, chomeurs, consaguins: bienvenue chez les ch'tis". Paedophiles, unemployed and in-bred: welcome to the home of the ch'tis (in reference to a hugely popular movie about people from the north of France).
Happily, we've no such incidents of hate-mongering and spite in the GAA.

GAA: On disagreeing well

I came across this classification of disagreeing on a blog today--coincidentally, it was not long after I read Dessie Farrell's barbed comments about Of One Belief on Setanta. 

Disagreeing is something the GAA appears to be doing a lot of recently--the Sigerson Cup, Cork's admission to the League, the "eligible expenses" scheme, last minute match cancellations, alcoholic sponsorship to name a few. So, as the author of How to Disagree? proposes, if there's a lot more disagreeing going on shouldn't we learn how to do it well?

Enough name calling, at least try to get to DH4 and produce a good counter-argument. 

Saturday, March 29, 2008

GAA: A level playing field

Although not yet signed, sealed, and delivered the "eligible expenses" scheme will involve a decent sum of money for players, especially for those that are students. With "performance" criteria built in to the scheme players will be paid depending on how far their county gets in the All-Ireland.

Both these elements pose an important question: at the start of each season, shouldn't each inter-county team be faced with the same number of games to reach the latter stages of the championship? The grants,  sorry, "eligible expenses" scheme may not create the pressure for change in this area yet, but if the GPA manages to get a percentage of TV money, then the pressure will build.

Currently, there is no level playing field in the All-Ireland. The historical geography of our provincial make-up dosen't allow it. Teams are faced with the same number of fixtures only after winning the provincial championships. No one can argue that Kerry or Cork face the same difficulty in winning their provincial championship as Armagh or Tyrone. Look at the Irish Independent's analysis of the situation in Ulster today, where there are six of the top 13 teams in the All-Ireland betting list. 

And even when the teams come through the provincial championships they do not enjoy equal status. The Ulster teams have to peak for round one of the championship and try to maintain their fitness throughout the season. Kerry have to peak to play Cork. 

How long can this situation last?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making time for GAA club games

Sean over at GAA 2008 (hurrah! another GAA blogger) wonders if there's any merit in Clare's suggestion that the All-Ireland football and hurling finals should be completed by the second week of September.
Bringing the All-Ireland finals back one or two weeks was first mooted in the GAA's Club Fixtures paper, which was circulated in July 2007 to a number of Provincial Councils and County Boards. The feedback to this proposal and others was included in a report launched in October. Needless to say, the response to the proposals was far from conclusive.
The esteemed response of the counties is that there is strong support for a shorter inter-county season in term of facilitating club fixtures, but even greater concern about agreeing competition structures on a long-term basis to allow for an overall fixture schedule programme to be  developed. The "major concern", with such a proposal, is that, "because of the importance of media coverage to the promotion of our games, we would lose out to other sports by reducing the length of the inter-county season". Therefore, moving the All-Ireland finals back by a week/Clare's proposal is the "best" that could be considered. 
So, the club players can sit around all summer and wait until there's a good two inches of muck before being let out, because Gaelic games must be promoted in the media? I don't understand how having a week less to the All-Ireland Final would greatly inhibit the promotion of Gaelic games on television and in the news. Sounds like the GAA is more preoccupied with marketing than looking after its own members. 
Surely, the best way of promoting the games is to have the inter-county stars on television one week and then playing with their clubs, where people can see them "up close and personal" and "in the flesh", the next? But, then there's the 13 day and 20 day rules, whereby County Players are freed from inter-club championships during those periods prior to championship games and All-Ireland finals respectively, which effectively prohibits that. It's hard to see how that could be tightened up further without over-burdening the players. [I couldn't help notice the French international rugby players (I don't know if it was the same for the other international teams) playing with their clubs between the international games in the Six Nations tournament. But, they are professionals and contracted to pay with their clubs, so that's another matter entirely.
Antrim's not the only county where it's a problem. In Meath in 2007 the football club championship started on 15 April. The second match was played two months later on 24 June, after Meath's defeat to Dublin in a replay. Meath's run in the qualifiers, which took them to the All-Ireland semi-final (enough said about that!), meant that there were no further championship games until 24 August. That's just three championship games in five months. It's dispiriting and demoralizing for dedicated club players who are committed to training hard. 
Something urgently needs to be done to solve this. Maybe the Clare proposals are a good start, even if just to demonstrate that the GAA is serious about making a start to tackle the problem and give some much needed attention to the clubs. 

GAA: Unanswered Questions on the "Eligible Expenses" scheme

Of One Belief also asks some pertinent questions about the "Eligible Expenses" scheme...

"The new “Eligible Expenses” scheme is very long on the “How” (ie we get chapter and verse on the mechanics of the thing) but totally and worryingly short on the “What” (i.e. just what is going to be included in these mysterious “Eligible Expenses”). In plain GAA language it’s not good enough. GAA people at Congress in a fortnight’s time are being asked to sign a blank cheque. We were last asked to do this on 8 December last year: we all now know the narrow escape the GAA had then. There’s an old Irish saying that goes: “Fool me once, shame on you … Fool me twice, shame on me!” It seems fairly relevant here!

Let’s look at the new “scheme”. At first glance alone here are some of the problems with it:
  • Just what are “Eligible Expenses”? It’s time to show us the beef! Give us a list of what’s in and make it clear what’s out. If that fairly simple exercise can’t be done … well, why can’t it be done?

  • On whose authority is the GPA to be unilaterally introduced to important decision-making roles within the GAA?

  • Why is the GPA the only party to all this not defined in the document?

  • What are the legal liabilities for the GAA in involving a non-constituted body like the GPA in its corporate governance?

  • Will team mentors/back-room people be eligible for these “enhanced expenses”? If not, why not?

  • Ditto re people involved in inter-County Under 21 and Minor teams

  • Ditto re referees, in many ways among the most important GAA people of all

  • And what about the driver who brings County Players to training etc in his/her car: does the inter-County player then revert back to being a 50-cents-a-mile as opposed to a €1.27-a-mile burden?

  • Who’s going to handle the administrative nightmare this will introduce at County level?

  • What kind of expenses regime is it that’s performance-based? Expenses are expenses are expenses: if they’re tied in to some sort of performance-related arrangement they’re not bona fide expenses. Are we seeing a major GAA Trojan Horse here?

  • Any encouragement of pooled player travel (and another stated government policy) now goes out the window

  • Most seriously of all, after all the honeyed words about player burnout we’re now about to lever even more training/performance demands onto inter-County players: that’s simply not what we should be doing"

GAA & Grants: Who Was Right and Who Was Wrong?

The latest update from Of One Belief rightly draws attention to the utter incompetence Croke Park has demonstrated throughout this sorry affair. [My emphasis in bold].

"Now everybody knows why those promoting player grants/awards/whatever ran scared of the DRA - they knew that what they had attempted to foist on the GAA back on 8 December hadn’t a legal, let alone an ethical leg to stand on. The panicky mantra this time around about compliance with EU law shows just how close to disaster the GAA had been brought last November/December. Serious questions have to be asked about the levels of competence shown right the way through here. And those questions remain about the latest offering to an increasingly sceptical GAA membership.

If there was any doubt that "Of One Belief" and those of like mind got it exactly right late last year and Central Council got it frighteningly wrong, then the frankly embarrassing expenses denouement of 17/18 March spells it out loud and clear. Last December we were told we were scare-mongering, that we were dinosaurs/backwoodsmen/The Taliban, that all the bases had been covered, that the amateur status was "copper-fastened" by the deal. Now the "copper-fastening" scheme is in the bin (a bin we’re confident is firmly copper-fastened!) and we’re presented with a whole new scheme and a whole new language. The last batch of very nervous assurances turned out to be as worthless as the grants they applied to.

In one of Irish sport’s great ongoing turnarounds, the cash-for-elite-GAA-players terminology has been changed yet again. We’ve so far waded our way from "grants" through "awards" to "eligible expenses" (can the term "dig-out" now be all that far away?) But the outcome remains tellingly the same: inter-County GAA players will be given sizeable amounts of cash simply because they’re inter-County GAA players. That’s the one sad, unchanging fact in all of this mess.

As the morass deepens we’ve been told by our President ("Off The Ball", Newstalk, 18 March) that inter-County players, having had their GAA mileage rates already paid by their County Boards (at 50 cents a mile), can apply to have their rates topped up to Civil Service levels (at ?1.27 a mile). It’s simply unbelievable.

In one of the GAA’s most ironic twists ever, we now have the GPA -which originally rightly railed at the fact that some elite GAA officials got better mileage rates than elite GAA players - endorsing exactly the same sort of grubby discrimination they said they came forward to oppose. Principle . where are you! But then maybe part of the GPA’s well-versed "plight-of-the-inter-County-player" is being cursed with cars that are, just as a fact of life, much more expensive to run than those driven by anybody else involved in the GAA. Maybe, to steal a phrase from another person; another time; and another place, the rest of us want to try it sometime!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sunday Tribune: Some balance

Unfortunately, I only came across this article - The buck stops here - today. It was written by Kieran Shannon and appeared in the Sunday Tribune last Sunday week.

[Dear Sunday Tribune - not that I expect anyone from the Sunday Tribune to read this blog - Please update your website with the most recent articles sooner! You may also want to think about revamping your website, 'cos right now it's brutal.]

The reason why I would like to draw attention to this piece, even at this late stage (late, not only because it is over a week old, but also, as Eugene McGee points out, the "grants debate" is now effectively dead), is because it's an evenhanded look at the issue, which makes two main points.

Firstly, that the crux of the whole debate comes down to struggle or balance between "collectivism v. individualism" and so the GPA and Of One Belief both have valid points of view which should be listened to. This attitude contrasts starkly with the invective directed at Mark Conway and Of One Belief, principally in the Irish Independent. I find it hard to understand the level of scorn directed personally at Conway, rather than making any effort to understand where Of One Belief was coming from.

Secondly, that the issue was a "big one" and should, therefore, be properly debated, as other big issues, like the Ban and the opening of Croke Park, were. Alas, we have been denied that opportunity. That's something else which I fail to understand--Did Croke Park not consult the lawyers properly and so fail to understand that a "grant" was detrimental to the GAA's amateur status, or did they deliberately muddle it up so as to ensure the "grants" safe passage?

Either way, Croke Park, Nicky Brennan and Paric Duffy have let GAA members down badly.