News Colm O'Rourke

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Colm O'Rourke: Lack of baggage means new-look Dubs can go places

Published 14/02/2010 | 05:00

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Perhaps we saw a vision of the new Dublin last Sunday in Killarney. Not Dublin light either, as they worked very hard for a victory, albeit over a Kerry side that seemed to have wintered well.

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Yet there are times when a developing team can trace their beginning and it is usually when they beat a bogey side. It does not matter how strong Kerry were -- a team wearing blue beat that famous green and gold jersey. It does not happen often so it must bring a degree of optimism.

Now all of that can be blown out of the water if subsequent displays are not up to scratch, but in many ways Pat Gilroy has nothing to lose and a lot to gain by making fairly drastic surgery to the Dublin team this year. The simple fact of the matter is that the Dubs have not been good enough at the business end of the championship for many years. It is one thing being kings of an uncompetitive Leinster but Kerry, Tyrone and even Mayo could see the emperor had no clothes when the sun came out.

New names dominated last week -- Michael McAuley, Blain Kelly, Kevin McMenamon, Cian O'Sullivan, Paul Flynn, Philip McMahon, Rory O'Carroll, Paul Conlon and James McCarthy, son of '70s legend John. They may not all make it but new players come with neither ego nor baggage so Dublin may need a couple of steps back in order to move forward. At least some of these young men can provide that.

One man who was hardly an unknown quantity coming into this match was Eamon Fennell. He was very good in this game and I was also very impressed with him in the O'Byrne Cup match against Meath in Navan. He is a possible successor to Ciaran Whelan and early-season form would indicate that he has a good chance of taking over that crown. Whether it is a crown of thorns remains to be seen.

The ongoing saga with his proposed transfer from O'Tooles to St Vincents does not seem to have interfered in any way with his performance. Yet a player without a club is at a serious disadvantage, although new selector David Hickey did not suffer unduly from a lack of club activity in the '70s.

The whole area of transfers in the GAA causes major rows in every county. The Association was founded on the core principle of loyalty to club but that has to be balanced with individual rights. There is an inherent contradiction when a player can move from one club to another if he crosses county boundaries yet cannot get a transfer within his county. The situation seems especially unjust when there is no appeal system in place. The only avenue of appeal is the DRA, which can only rule on whether proper procedure is carried out as distinct from whether there is merit in the transfer.

It appears to me that any player who, after a couple of years seeking a transfer, should be allowed to go especially if he won't play with his club anymore. What point is there in holding onto someone so disaffected?

Of course a club will argue that a player should not be allowed to move a couple of miles just to get away. It can be seen as the ultimate lack of loyalty and the transfer system that's in place ensures protection of smaller clubs.

It would take the wisdom of Solomon and all his advisers to solve a problem where the club and the player in a dispute may both be at least half right. I played at adult level for Skryne for over 20 years even though I was not living there and had no inclination to play for anyone else, but I do think the present system gives almost universal rights to the club over individuals. That has to be changed. It should be easier to get a transfer but a player should be tied to his new club for a minimum period of, say, five years, unless he goes to another county.

Also some type of appeal mechanism is an absolute necessity. Everyone, clubs included, are entitled to get a second hearing. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

It would hardly apply though to George Lee. He is not the type who would last long in a GAA club. He obviously never heard that when you join the army, you wear the boots. I have heard plenty of criticism of policies from him over the years but I have never heard one new policy idea or any vision of doing things differently. This resignation was the ultimate display of throwing the toys out of the pram.

Anyway, the league is up and running now. Last Sunday I argued for more games on week nights. The GAA should have at least one Friday special in each round. The Magners League have succeeded in that regard and imitation is a sincere form of flattery.

The GAA, instead of hoping people will come, should be borrowing or stealing every good idea from elsewhere to promote games.

A midweek match has major promotional opportunities in schools. Give out free tickets in both primary and secondary schools. Parents will be enticed to come, maybe they might come again. It's the way to get a new audience. And Fáilte Ireland should be on board for weekend trips away for supporters. Last weekend was an ideal opportunity for the hotels of Killarney, which are probably more than half empty, to try and get a few thousand Dubs down to Kerry. Was there any tourism promotion done? People need to start thinking differently and the GAA should be at the heart of national regeneration.

Of course, the best thing of all would be to bring all county chairmen and team managers together when fixtures are being made and see what local agreements could be made for different nights of the week before the master fixture plan is put in place. It works for big soccer tournaments.

No need to reinvent the wheel but the various PR departments of the GAA units, from Croke Park to individual counties, should be coming up with plans to make games more attractive. At the very least, it is an improvement of the old policy: do nothing.

Sunday Independent

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