November 4, 2011
Who is in charge? I am calling you out.
Yes, yes, I keep hearing the same old grumps complain about this “farcical” game that is the International Rules Series but, let’s be honest, too many people in our sport are much too ignorant and lightning quick to reject absolutely anything that is not purely GAA and GAA only. If it is not written as Gaeilge, then they do not want to know.
The International Rules should represent an enthralling culmination to the end of both Australia and Ireland’s respective seasons where only the very best 24 players in our sport get the chance to emerge from the intercounty scene. It is a chance for two sports – too rooted to their home bases – to show themselves off on an international stage that is not presented to them 11 months of the year. It is an opportunity for the very best amateurs in Ireland to play together with the standard that they deserve but often don’t get with their counties. And why shouldn’t GAA members have the honour of representing their country – a privilege which is generally the pinnacle of most sports careers?
Instead, the Series slips under the radar in remarkable fashion. It is actually impressive how the marketing ‘gurus’ manage to keep these games so low-key. For millions of people, Gaelic Football is their primary sport and to say that they don’t get excited at the prospect of our best players playing together is baffling. How could anyone turn up their nose at Kieran Donaghy, Michael Murphy and Tommy Walsh playing in the same forward line? I love watching Ulster nemeses, Coulter, Cavanagh, and McDonnell come together and combine to take down an opposing nation. If not patriotic, it is intriguing just to see Kerry and Cork, Dublin and Meath line out side-by-side to answer Ireland’s call (sorry). Imagine if the English Premier League decided to take on La Liga in an end-of-season, best-of-the-best battle. The euphoria that would surround team selections, tactics, and club enemies locking hands for just one time would be too big to repress. And I’ll tell you what would salivate my taste buds: compromise rules of Rugby and American Football. But they don’t need it – they’ve already been selling out Wembley for an all-American clash. Only we have a problem with letting our sport grow.
Forcing players to choose between their club and their country is also unfair and completely unnecessary. The fact that it is a debate amongst the laity what should take priority, the fact that sportsmen are being nationally chastised for admitting the difficulties of the decision is typical. In fact, I would be angry if someone didn’t want to play for Ireland. But why can’t footballers want to do both? Why can’t Irishmen want to represent Ireland? Why aren’t they allowed to do both? If I read one more comment on the HoganStand website about how clubs are not treated fairly, my keyboard will break at my violent response. Because of club fixtures, our country has had to do without the services of some of its best players. The club organisers have no one to blame but themselves. This Sunday, myself and my club will compete in the League Final (light a candle) on the 6th of November. The loser will have a further game in the middle of November for a second crack at promotion. The campaign threw-in in March with the pre-season Ulster league tournament commencing at the beginning of February. Our county team, Derry, had just 4 Championship games yet the club league season has expanded over 9 calendar months. The fixture lists are a shambles and if we can’t set two weeks aside in October/November for our country then that small-minded thinking will get us nowhere.
It should be the easiest thing in the world to promote. Unfortunately, however, I see no publicity stunts, I see no campaigns, I see no billboards of Kennelly or Walsh, of Bolton or Glynn. Were there any TV adverts? I wouldn’t know because RTÉ chose to show kids’ television programmes last Friday instead of the best athletes in their country. In fact, it should promote itself. But it doesn’t because everything is being done to undermine it.
The Aussies, of course, have been fielding a second-string side ever since we forced them to change the rules to suit us even more and we have taken the competition out of it. The obligation to kick after 4 hand-passes is a ridiculous requirement for a sport and one which was blatantly designed to handicap the previously stronger opposition (much like you would in a children’s training session). I think we need to meet them half way but we also need to get our off-field act together and take it more seriously than we have been. Our players done their bit last Friday by handing out a good pounding to the men Down Under and that will go a long way to bring out the Australian competitive streak again.
But unless we bring back a bit of cohesion on this island then the game really is dead like all its moaners are proclaiming and hoping. And if it does die, then you take with it the international merit that players are not currently recognised for – the merit which they deserve. You take with it the international links that should be helping propel the GAA onto a new stage and you ensure the same determined disposition that keeps us in our desired 20th century comfort zone.
The International Rules Series genuinely has massive potential for so many reasons and should act as a perfect curtain closer to both countries’ sporting years. It should also serve to inspire its diverse viewers like every sport does but unless we even try to get back to the sold-out Croke Park days of 2006, then it is the GAA who is missing out – ironically the same organisation that is causing the problem.This entry was posted in GAA, Issues. Bookmark the permalink. ← This Isn’t the End! Red Devils Going Social? →