Royals right to get shirty as counties tighten belts
LAST July, I was contacted by the father of a county minor footballer who wanted to air what he perceived as a serious injustice which had been visited on his son.
The youngster had swapped his jersey with an opponent after a championship game (not a provincial final) and was immediately challenged by a board official who just stopped short of instructing him to retrieve it from the opposition dressing-room.
The irate father felt that his son had been the victim of an outrageous cheek and complained at length about what he regarded as the ultimate in pettiness.
I asked him if the players had been told in advance to hold on to their jerseys and he replied that even if they were, it shouldn't have made any difference.
"My son was representing his county so what he did with his jersey was his business," he declared unequivocally.
Clearly unimpressed by the 'ask not what your county can do for you, but what you can do for your county' philosophy, he said that if a player -- even a minor -- wanted to swap his jersey after every game, it was his entitlement.
Actually, it's not, since somebody else was paying for it and besides, there are agreed practices that determine when players can keep (or swap) jerseys.
I thought of Angry Dad when Meath announced last week that part of 'Banty's Bargain' as new team manager was that the Royal subjects would return the jerseys after games. It was estimated that such prudence would save €5,000 per season.
That's for one squad only, so if it's multiplied across all grades in football and hurling, it's clear that a lot of money is being wasted around the country in jersey swaps. Senior teams are allowed to keep (or swap) jerseys three times a year, but it has long since extended beyond that.
For reasons which aren't immediately apparent, some players like to have an opponent's jersey, even if it's of little use, since many managers won't allow opposition gear be used in training.
Other managers take the view that by handing over a jersey, a player is giving away something that belongs to a county and an identity; don't allow a jersey to become a scalp and all that.
Okay, so there's no need to be too precious about the symbolism of it all, but when it comes down to hard cash, it's daft that counties have to find up to €5,000 per team so that players can keep (or swap) jerseys. After all, it's not as if squads don't get enough training gear for use away from match days.
It's not an issue in some counties with big sponsorship deals where such costs are factored in, but it's a sizeable burden in others at a time when it's increasingly difficult to generate income.
So, well done Meath for publicly highlighting and acting on a wanton waste. Undoubtedly, it will strike a chord in other counties who have been experiencing the same problem. If €5,000 can be saved so easily in one area of team expenditure, there's probably other cost-cutting that could apply across the broader spectrum without impacting on players. There are so many 'extras' involved in modern-day GAA camps that you wonder if half them are necessary.
But the mentality seems to be, 'if the opposition has psychologists, conditioning coaches, statisticians etc then we must have them too' -- that's how it works.
And since there are so many professions now involved with GAA teams, their well-paid personnel are hardly going to jump off the gravy train, declaring that some of their services are unnecessary.
Fitting testimonial to honour rainbow
As an example of how to honour a player who has given tremendous service to both club and county, while also generating revenue for a players' fund, plus some charities, those involved in organising the 'Anthony Rainbow Farewell Game' in Newbridge for this Saturday deserve great credit.
They have lined up a Rest of Ireland selection to play a Kildare 15 (2.0) and, given that the Lilywhites have one of the most loyal fan-bases in the country, a large crowd will turn out.
And why wouldn't they? It's a great opportunity to once again enjoy the glorious skills of stars of the recent past such as Peter Canavan, Michael Donnellan, Ja Fallon, Darragh O Se, Kieran McGeeney, Glenn Ryan, Graham Geraghty and Seamus Moynihan.
Mick O'Dwyer will be back to his old stomping ground in St Conleth's Park to manage the Ireland 15, while Rainbow (pictured below), who finally announced his retirement after 20 years on the inter-county circuit, will captain the Kildare team.
His career ended without an All-Ireland medal, but that in no way diminishes his stature as one of the best wing-backs of his generation.
He will get the send- off he deserves on Saturday, while it will be winners all round for the Kildare players' fund, St Brigid's Hospice on the Curragh and St John of God, Celbridge.