Raise your hand if you've had enough nonsense
IT WAS tempting to think of the GAA in terms of the Laurel and Hardy Show last week. It was a definite case of getting themselves into another fine mess.
The first sketch was the Sigerson Cup.
To the great unwashed this competition has little relevance and if it was measured by attendance or media coverage then that would be certainly correct. In fact, when those of us who were involved in the burn-out committee brought forward a raft of proposals which had, among them, the amalgamation of U21 and minor into an U19 competition, the opponents of change argued that it was third level where the problem lay and we had left that sector largely untouched. Some would go so far as to abolish the Sigerson long before the U21.
I am not going to try to fight that war again, but playing at third level helps GAA players to cope with the pressures of college, it gives them a social outlet and an opportunity to make a lot of new friends in an environment where there is little sense of belonging. It is also a high standard of football. In short, it is a players' championship where winning is very difficult and the sense of achievement is huge.
Last week, Carlow IT -- who host the finals weekend this year -- got a right kick where it hurts most with the objection by Cork IT to the Garda College, who beat them during the week. This came after an objection by -- coincidentally -- Carlow IT as to the eligibility of one of the Garda players, which was overturned on appeal. All of this, in effect, threw the Sigerson weekend out the window. Friday should have been semi-final day, followed by the final yesterday, but all that bit the dust as the rule book was chewed up by those who are charged with promoting games at this level. More than a little irony there.
All the time Carlow, the hosts, who have worked hard to make the whole weekend a success and give a big boost to football in the college are left high and dry. Teams who were to play have had to cancel arrangements and no matter when it is played now it is absolutely certain to clash with some important fixture at U21 or senior level.
When the smell of manure settles on this latest mess the finger will point very firmly in the direction of the Central Appeals Committee (CAC), who overturned a decision by the third level authority, Comhairle Ardoideachais, the CAO.
I know most people get completely turned off by these GAA committees, but some of the decisions made by the CAC over the last year have completely undermined some other GAA bodies which are supposed to be fighting out of the same corner.
In this case it would be reasonable to assume that if the body in charge of higher education football threw the Gardai out, then they should know best. As happened on so many other occasions recently, the CAC upstaged them, allowed the Gardai back in, and when they beat Cork IT, Cork decided to try their hand in the boardroom.
At this stage it does not really matter that much who is right or wrong. To the general GAA public, there is frustration and anger that, from within, a mentality of object and appeal has taken over which is largely related to daft decisions by some of the GAA's own bodies. There is no exact science in relation to the rule book, but where the CAC effectively undermines other bodies there is something seriously wrong. There are rules, interpretations of rules and the right thing to do. That has become lost with some people who seem to think that expertise in the rule book is of great importance -- it's not.
Our next sketch stars the fixtures making body of the GAA, the CCCC. It was hard not to feel sorry for Antrim, whose simple request to have a slightly earlier start to today's hurling league match in Waterford was refused. No ulterior motive in the request, just a desire to get players home in time for work on Monday morning. But rules is rules -- except of course when they're not.
The mess that was made of the Cork situation shows a complete lack of will to do the right thing. The decision was very simple: either Cork were in or they were out -- and if they were in then they played all their games. If that took a bit of negotiation then they should have got on their bikes and sorted it. The full stupidity and total unfairness of the existing decision to award points will only become apparent in another few weeks.
The choice of fixtures to start the League showed absolutely no imagination either and the response from the watching public has reflected that.
But, my favourite sketch last week involved our old friends, the DRA.
It seems they have given a hearing to the group (who call themselves Of One Belief) leading the campaign against the government grants to players.
What this is doing is legitimising a small number who have no official standing in the GAA. If this group wanted to object they could have gone through the usual channels, in other words their clubs. These same clubs, many of whom are in Ulster, are paying very large sums of money to managers, so it takes some nerve and blatant hypocrisy to bring this case to the DRA. They must have all the glass broken in their glass houses.
Worse still, instead of telling them to take a running jump, the DRA listened to this rubbish. This coming at a time when Congress are preparing to have the normal debate on these grants as they have on all other major issues. Who is running the show anymore? If this is the carry-on then any group with something up their nose can form a committee and attempt to undermine decisions which are democratically reached. From this it appears that anything which is not liked can be challenged by anyone outside the normal process.
It is long past time to go back to a situation where there is one body to make decisions with one appeal after that. And if that does not suit, then there is the High Court, but unelected groups should not be given a hearing in any forum. The laudable attempt by the GAA to keep things out of court has spectacularly backfired. There were very few of these cases anyway, but a monster in the shape of various committees has been created instead. It is like a pig eating its own.
And after years of trying to get the Government to recognise the special place of Gaelic games we have our own trying their best to scuttle it with some help from official bodies. (I say this while having some reservations about the different amounts which will be handed out to various counties. It might be better if everyone got the same, but I have no time for the crusaders who think they are whiter than white and want to stop the grants -- the total of which might pay for a modest holiday.)
And don't start me on the principles involved in amateurism. That has become a moveable feast for everyone except the entertainers. It helps for all of us to be a bit mad in this organisation, but it is time to take back control of the asylum.