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