Media stir up storm over Cha
At 26, James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick has decided to hang up his inter-county helmet in what could be described as a shock to many. Having won five senior All-Ireland titles as well as three All Stars, the Kilkenny hurler has cited lack of game time as the main reason for his decision.
Playing senior inter-county hurling or football is a massive commitment for any team and probably more so for a group that can be described as the most successful hurling team ever.
Beyond coverage of the retirement in the national papers, there seemed to be an agenda. It was mooted that Fitzpatrick could declare for Dublin. There seemed to be little fact behind the possibility yet the media seemed to welcome it as a positive switch.
Why? Maybe because there is a school of thought that Dublin hurling needs to be strong to keep hurling both interesting and competitive? And what better way to promote hurling in Dublin as well as increasing the potential of the senior team than to bring in a player of Cha's reputation and quality?
This is the first time I have read reports of a transfer within the GAA as positive. If Fitzpatrick wanted to join Tipperary, would it be viewed as a positive move or as a threat to the amateur ethos and the inter-county structure we have in place?
One paper ran a convoluted suggestion that Fitzpatrick's move to Anthony Daly's side was written in the stars. Tongue in cheek yes, but it demonstrated the ease with which the media are willing to marry Cha and Dublin hurling.
As a player who has relocated to Dublin and switched to a club there, I know there is unease regarding the number of players joining clubs in the capital. It would seem that the proposed transfer of a high-profile player should cause massive debate but it appears to be accepted, if not welcomed.
The media shape opinions on a wide range of subjects and if the media suggested that a possible switch from Kilkenny to Dublin was an outrage, then that would be the talking point. It seems though that the media have now championed the 'Cha to Dublin' cause and opened the public's mind to the prospect. I don't believe that a player who has achieved all that he has with Kilkenny would be interested in a move to Dublin, but maybe I'm wrong.
What would happen if a move went ahead? We already have rumours of Cavan's Seanie Johnston joining Kildare. Does this signal the end of the current inter-county structure? I'll nail my flag to the mast here; if I could get paid to play GAA I would grab it with both hands, who wouldn't? At the same time, playing for your county is a fantastic reward and brings great pride.
But the modern game is so demanding that it is increasingly difficult to give the required commitment while balancing work, family and everything else. Eventually the debate will need to be settled. Once that happens, the media will be at the forefront of the discussion and, be under no illusions, their view will play a major role in the outcome.
Aindréas Doyle is a Wexford senior footballer, you can read his blog at crocodoyle.blogspot.com
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