THE GAA went to Derry for their Annual Congress and this year delegates made some very important decisions.
The first one that caught my eye was the decision to open up county stadiums outside of Croke Park. From my point of view this is a milestone decision for the GAA – something that has been advocated by a lot of people in the association.
This, of course, is meant to be a support move in any application for the hosting of the Rugby World Cup. Delegates now seem to realise that there is employment in the Sports Tourism game and, really, we should be opening the stadiums up to a lot more sports. The GAA must realise that we need activity in all grounds to try and create work for players and future generations of players.
The Association can't be expecting others to create work, while adopting a negative thought process towards the use of some of the finest stadiums in the country. If Fitzgerald Stadium was required by an international sport and if it attracted large crowds to Killarney, then Kerry as a whole may benefit – from the Ring of Kerry to Dingle and right through Tralee and Listowel – creating economic activity and creating the jobs we need to keep our players at home.
I have long advocated sports tourism as a way forward for job creation in the country. The GAA will have to explore every avenue in its quest to find work to keep our young people at home, every county will want to explore what they can do to find jobs for the youth.
The long term aim for us in Kerry is to try to get university status for the likes of the IT Tralee. The bottom line is that we will not attract any high tech jobs to Kerry if we can't acquire that educational status that can keep our young in the county. GAA officials should use the political clout they have to press for a higher status for the IT. That'd be the best way to stop the blight of rural depopulation and a lack of playing numbers that's hurting so many of our smaller clubs.
We in Kerry have been an exporter of our young intelligent people for far too long. We need to realise too that it's the young people we export who are the likely job creators. That's the significance that I attach to this sea-change in mindset by the delegates in Derry. There is no doubt in the world that this decision should be the norm from now on. Forget about waiting for World Cups and the like.
I welcome the move on the introduction of the black card, even though I don't know if it will change the type of game we have at the moment. I accept that something had to be done to with the cynical fouling that has crept in to the game and I welcome anything that will improve this, but the allowing of a substitution will, or could be, an advantage to the teams with the bigger panels. I do, however, have a slight difficulty with the black card system in so far as I think, perversely, it will make referee's jobs a little easier as they won't be afraid to send a player off knowing they can be replaced.
One thing not addessed at the weekend is the fact the the game suffers from the overuse of the handpass. Only a few weeks ago we had Kerry's Mick O'Connell give the modern game a negative review and one of the great kickers of the football – and recently entered to the GAA Hall of Fame – Tony McTague said if you are a good athlete and can play basketball you would probably make the team before a fellow who can kick and high field the football.
It's a pity the FRC didn't take the thoughts of great players like these into account in their deliberations, but we will have to wait for a while again before we see a true game of gaelic football.
At the weekend game Kerry had a win against Cork. Did we find a full-back at last? The interesting thing about Griffin is that he plays there for his club, so welcome on board Mark Griffin. We have been looking for some like you for a while. It's early days yet, naturally, but if Griffin could make it that'd be a good result going forward.