Martin Breheny: Why so little joy on planet GAA?
Long winter of discontent points to need for widespread soul-searching
Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30
Praise the Lord, the games are back. By the time Dublin and Kerry line up in Croke Park on Saturday night, it will be almost 19 weeks since they met in the All-Ireland final.
Few sports have such a long close season at top level but even then it comes nowhere close to sorting out the fixtures conundrum which continues to bedevil the GAA. No, I'm going nowhere near it this week, except to note that something strange appears to be going on in Kilkenny.
Last week, Eddie Brennan wanted the Walsh Cup scrapped, now Michael Fennelly reckons zapping the Allianz Hurling League would be a good idea. He proposes a new Championship where "10 or 12 teams would play each other once" to clear the way for the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
In effect, he wants a summer League, where the top eight finishers would enter the knock-out stages of the All-Ireland Championship. Good luck with that, Michael.
I can't recall an inter-county close season during which so much frustration and general unhappiness surfaced across the GAA landscape.
There's nothing unusual about various issues coming under scrutiny in winter (otherwise GAA coverage in the media would be tiny) but this year has been especially rancorous.
And before the media is blamed, it's the role of commentators to raise questions. The difference now is that many of the complaints are coming from inside the GAA family itself. It's so relentless that you wonder if there's even one remaining GAA member who isn't experiencing angst, anger and anxiety.
Try the following list from this month alone. They would make an outsider assume that membership of the organisation is a punishment for sins committed in a previous life. Current and former players, county and club managers, GPA, provincial and Croke Park executives are among the many voices articulating the trials and tribulations of life in the GAA.
Why such widespread disharmony?
Jan 9: "Previously, depression was the biggest problem but now it's gambling addiction. There's a lot going on in that space and I still think we're only scratching the surface" - Dessie Farrell, GPA CEO.
Jan 17: "There's too much hurling. I would question whether the Walsh Cup has run its course. Maybe leave this time of the year free for third level" - Eddie Brennan, Kilkenny U-21 manager.
Jan 18: "The GAA has a blueprint for failure here (All-Ireland 'B' football championship). What they have put forward is almost lip-service" - Daniel St Ledger, Carlow footballer.
Jan 19: "I'm angry for the players. There is no fairness or equality for the so-called weaker counties" - Johnny Magee, Wicklow manager.
Jan 21: "What we have is a minority now dictating what is happening. Club players are being shafted" - Conor Deegan, Downpatrick manager.
Jan 23: "We understand that there is serious concern among our members about the developments" - GPA communication with its membership on the GAA's decision to propose a 'B' Championship while refusing to put the 'Champions League' plan to Congress.
Jan 24: "We have been very lucky that there has not been a lot more suicides in the GAA. It has literally (in some cases) come down to seconds" - Conor Cusack, GPA.
Jan 24: "If we don't shout stop, players (club) will stop playing" - John Prenty, Connacht Council secretary.
Jan 25: "The League should nearly be scrapped and just have a Championship starting in April. Get the 10 or 12 teams to play each other once and then go into the quarter-finals. It's a 12-month game now and that's why injuries happen" - Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny)
Jan 25: "Why should we put up with it (club fixture problems)? When you get elite, you're the opposite of inclusive. If we have no enjoyment and all slavery then Cusack (GAA founder, Michael Cusack) failed. But I think he succeeded, we'll measure up again" - Paudie Butler, Laois manager.
Jan 26: "It's a matter of regret that, in 2015, the term 'sledging' was invoked with greater regularity than ever before. Many would say verbal intimidation always existed. What is different now is the allegation that some teams are engaging in nasty, personal abuse on a systematic basis" - Paraic Duffy, GAA director general.
Are things really all that bad? If so, it's time to get a biro and a blank sheet of paper and start again because right now there seems so little joy out there.
Well, not until the games start this weekend anyway.