fans sold short as gaa wastes golden chance
Published 20/06/2011 | 05:00
It is the weekend before the year's longest day and yet the ardent GAA fan yearning for heightened activity could only see a weekend yawning with inactivity.
The mean-spirited weeping skies seem to be denying the existence of summer; undeniably culpable too, however, are our national games.
How else to explain the dearth of compelling live action on the one weekend that bequeaths more sunlight than any other in the calendar year?
In a summer devoid of an Olympic Games, a European soccer championships or a World Cup, the path has been cleared for us Gaels to submerge ourselves in the best our Gaelic games have to offer; instead, it is as if the absence of all its global sporting rivals has unearthed the bumbling behemoth for what it really is.
Hence last week, we witnessed civil war erupting in Offaly after some little Hitler with a set of keys lit a tinderbox, and football's greatest current exponent, Colm Cooper, bemoaned the "ludicrous" schedule that leaves weekends such as this so unexposed to action.
Before that, the agenda was forged by the anachronistic struggle between the forces of pre-Vatican II, represented by Mickey Harte and his Brian Carthy-supporting cohorts, against those sporting ecumenists who may dare to allow a GAA commentary to be effected by someone who had once dabbled in rugby or soccer affairs.
There was also the premature retirement story of John Clarke, the Down player who seemed sadly so unsure of his remarkable talent that he sought refuge in the inanities of internet ingrates, whose abuse suddenly became the loudest voices in the player's head. Controversies with shoddy soap opera plotlines are all too easily subduing affairs of the field.
A fortnight ago, as we sat through a double-header portraying the most unfair distribution of wealth seen in Croke Park since Bono lectured to us about the Government's shoddy commitment to Third World Aid, it struck us that the biggest story of the day was Graham Geraghty.
It seemed natural, then, with the games taking a back seat, Geraghty should become unwittingly involved in the day's biggest controversy, one that has rumbled along since.
Yet was there not something particularly fraught about installing our faith in the comeback of a 38-year-old to colour the day?
And this is the landscape with the GAA having the full summer vista to themselves.
They do not have to compete with the passionately provocative figure of Katie Taylor emblazoning her name across an Olympian London summer -- yet.
They do not have to challenge another summer when Ireland's predominant disinterest in its international team could be suddenly displaced by an appearance at a major tournament -- not yet anyway.
There is no soccer World Cup to worry about -- even if the Ulster Council put on this limited season's best football game, Down v Armagh, in direct opposition to the Champions League, the fools!
The Rugby World Cup doesn't take place until September -- and even then, it's at the other end of the world and its matches take place at the other end of the day.
So why still the aching yen for much more from our national games, armed as we are with the knowledge that there is only the best part of two months from which to absorb their pleasure?
Sure, there have been stellar moments and achievements -- John Mullane's era-defying smiting of brave Limerick, Brendan Murphy's extraordinary late salvo for Carlow -- yet is it not indicative that a local row about drinking and locked gates in a midlands town could easily overshadow both those sporting achievements?
If there were more action, there would be no room for this debate. Mercifully, this is not the arena for another championship structure debate -- suffice to say, plans have been devised which preserve provincial integrity while also providing regular top-class action.
Why, some of it could take place during the week; one of this writer's annual highlights has been attending feisty U-21 hurling action on Wednesdays in high summer; why not allow seniors to do the same?
Sadly, there remains a disconnect between the GAA's administrators and its greatest assets: its players and supporters.
No wonder we're all a little disillusioned. Because we know our games have so much more to offer than they are now.
On the longest weekend of the year, as a bunch of tired crooners pranced around our national stadium, it is a sad reflection that the GAA supporters are being ill-served when it comes to providing our indigenous sport stars with the platform they deserve.
Take a quick peek at the Gooch's remarkable goal for Dr Crokes -- tinyurl.com/6d6rtzr -- and ask yourself is it right that he is almost being wilfully shielded from centre stage for as long as possible?
Of course it's better than the old days, when only a clutch of teams possessed a belief that higher honours could be theirs, but that is no excuse for the complacency that seems to abound in 2011.
"Could it be magic?" Of course it could. It's just a pity that the GAA's response is so pithy. Take That, they might as well be saying. It is not good enough.