Colm O'Rourke: Inter-county spending spree can't go on forever
When it was revealed in Roscommon that it was costing €15,000 per week to run the senior team, it just made everyone aware of the runaway train that county teams have become.
When it was revealed in Roscommon that it was costing €15,000 per week to run the senior team, it just made everyone aware of the runaway train that county teams have become.
It was a tale of two venues last weekend, Dublin and Roscommon. Croke Park on a Saturday night is always worth a visit. The only thing that is...
If the ard-stiúrthóir's job is to point out problems in the GAA before riding off into the sunset then Páraic Duffy's final annual report sticks to script.
A sporting highlight should be real.
There was a bit of reaction to last week's column in which I detailed the different kinds of managers patrolling the sidelines of our club games, so maybe it's time to look at some more of the characters who power the lights of the GAA. It could become a series, a bit like The Men Who Built America, but it might take Pat Shortt a while to make it up.
The GAA is the most wonderful way to study a vast range of human behaviours — sometimes in the same person during the same game. There are, however, vast differences between the people involved in this wonderful game. Here are some of the principal characters.
If there is a debate in science about which came first, the chicken or the egg, there can be a similar debate in football about which comes first, success at adult level or underage victories propelling adult teams to glory.
In a series which went largely unnoticed in this country and in Australia, there were still important questions to be answered.
At this time of year there is a good chance to take stock and cast a cold eye on the affairs of state, at least those of the GAA world anyway. By chance, the GPA's annual report for 2016 came my way last week so I thought it was time to renew acquaintances with some old friends. Hardly surprising that I am not on the GPA's mailing list but I am quite sure readers will be interested in at least...
When I tried to study the fixture list for next year which was published last week, I did not know who to feel most sorry for - the county man or the club player. The county man will get no break at all, matches start earlier with pre-season games before the year is out in some cases, and when that is all finished he will put on his club kit which should see him well into the autumn of 2018.
I managed to annihilate over 25,000 people in Cavan last week. That is, I listed the county's population as just over 50,000, instead of 76,000. Anyway, the natives don't appear to have been too upset by it.
In 2002 the GAA's strategic review committee came up with some every interesting proposals. Looking back 15 years later, the most impressive thing associated with the body chaired by Peter Quinn...
Who gets more criticism every year, the Minister for Health or the GAA's Ard Stiúrthóir? It's a close call but the man at the top in Croke Park probably has to dodge more bullets than those being sent...
The spotlight has been shining brightly on Colm Cooper's testimonial dinner, and the general reaction has been quite negative. The dissenting voices included my colleague Joe Brolly, who articulated his misgivings in print and on radio.
There were so many talking points last Sunday, yet after the last whistle it was all chaff in the wind. Within minutes, as always, it was a bit like the Eric Cantona ad, "losers go home". And the trudge home for Mayo supporters was more painful than ever. They resembled the French army in Napoleon's retreat from Russia. A long, slow, silent retreat. Every train, plane, bus and car bore testimony to the vast emptiness of defeat.
The Flying Dutchman is a mythical ship that sails the seas endlessly and never makes port. Mayo players and supporters know the feeling but there are plenty of lights out west which would guide the Dutchman home to a safe harbour, and the closer we come to the game, there seems increasing confidence that the beacon is becoming stronger.
Comparisons between teams of different eras are odious. That is probably why people like doing it so much. The best team ever; the best player of his generation; the best corner-forward... the list is endless and everyone can be right as all opinion is subjective.
Mayo again on the verge of the promised land. A performance of manliness, aggression and bravery which reduced Kerry to an indisciplined outfit. The last act of Kieran Donaghy summed it all up, a red card which was an inglorious end to a career of many highs. Donaghy had made little impact on the game compared to the drawn match and the frustration boiled over.
When the championship draws were made last November you did not have to be a genius to figure out that this day was coming - and it has come without any major fuss.
When Mayo were suffering the head staggers early in the championship against Galway, Derry and Cork, there was concern, at the very least, in the tourist industry in places like Bohola, Claremorris and Kiltimagh that the normal influx of 'foreigners' would not materialise this year. These are the Mayo people who have been scattered by the four winds to places like London, New York,...
The reaction to my comments on television last Monday about the drift of the GAA towards unfettered capitalism and elitism has been quite surprising, mainly because it was not something new. In fact, I was merely expanding on several points I have been raising on a consistent basis for some time.
Tomorrow is a day of opportunity. Can Roscommon seize the moment and finish off Mayo, who have been doing their own version of Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope for the last couple of months? Or can Mayo come up with something new to change a season which has provided marvellous entertainment but appears to be running out of road?
Mayo, the source of a thousand football stories, none of which have had a happy ending. So every day we search for a new angle.
From looking a basket case against Down last month, Armagh have demonstrated admirable qualities of resilience and togetherness in eclipsing Kildare last night.
When Tyrone came under scrutiny a few years ago for diving, goading and attempting to get opposition players sent off, it drove their supporters to distraction. How could anyone accuse their heroes of activity which is alien to the normal culture of the GAA?
After watching some of the hurling games over the last few weeks, I've come to the conclusion that football and hurling should be completely separated and run as different organisations. The rules in terms of contact in the two codes are supposed to be basically the same, but in practice they are worlds apart. In fact, almost anything goes in hurling. Referees interfere as little as possible and...
Last Sunday was a wonderful occasion in Croke Park. The biggest ever crowd for a Leinster hurling final, but unfortunately the game did not meet expectations. It was the most recent awakening of the Wexford giant, and there are few counties with such passion for hurling.
Jim Gavin's departure from his usual script about process, hard work and all the other clichés which he uses to keep hungry hacks at arm's length was the only shock at Croke Park last Sunday.
Every final in the GAA should be about counties of similar strength and preparation playing each other. A Munster final at the moment does not stand up to that scrutiny. When Cork play Kerry it is usually an unequal struggle. Kerry win most of the time. There have been occasions when Cork could assemble a force to drive up to Killarney and beat up the Kerrymen, steal some of their women and scatter their cattle before making off across the border with wine, women and song.
Dublin are in some type of decline - that is the general view after the League final defeat to Kerry and the not-so-impressive win over Carlow. It is not something I agree with. I am more in the Mark Twain mould and feel that rumours about their demise are greatly exaggerated. Dublin are merely in sleep mode and will be ready to strike from today on. This year is entirely based around the championship and I certainly expect that they will be involved in September.
There will be a great debate in years to come about whether it was Donegal or Tyrone who reduced football to a zero sum. If Tyrone started a new trend then Donegal certainly added to it.
Al Capone, Ned Kelly, Butch Cassidy . . . they never got as much publicity as Diarmuid Connolly did last week. Most of the comments around what happened in Carlow last Saturday night were negative. Connolly was tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion.
Brendan O'Sullivan put Valentia Island on the map again last week. In years past there was a Valentia player who made headlines in a different way. Mick O'Connell was the islander who graced Croke Park, Killarney and hundreds of other venues with his athleticism, skill and sheer football ability. To many in Kerry, he was the prince of football who never veered from the view that football was...
The championship is up and running - if that is the appropriate term to use. A few good hidings is mostly what we have got so far, and the trend will continue for a while longer.
When I was playing football I loved the month of May. Long holidays on the horizon, good weather, the championship starting for club and county, a time of hope. The journey was about to start again. Now when I look back I realise that I lived for the best part of a decade in a fool's paradise. There was no hope, Meath were going nowhere fast from the mid-1970s until 1986.
When news emerged about irregular betting patterns in an Athlone Town soccer match against Longford recently, there was shock and horror.
Is there a new 'get tough' policy with managers this year? Recent evidence with Kieran McGeeney would suggest that the GAA has decided to set out their stall before the championship. The three-month suspension handed down to McGeeney seems to indicate a hardening of attitudes at central level to dissent being dished out to officials.
A few clear-cut trends have emerged already this year. One of them is that there is a growing and more vocal disenchantment with the present championship structure. What players and supporters realise from the league is that you only get real competition between teams of a similar standard.
THE king is dead, long live the king. When I wrote just three weeks that Dublin were sailing close to the wind in games and that some day the comeback would fall just short, I certainly did not think it would happen so quickly. What began in Tralee was finished in Dublin. Victory for Kerry brought an end to Dublin’s unbeaten record, and it puts a slightly different complexion on the rest of the year.
In Canadian ice hockey, Wayne Gretzky was known by everyone as 'The Great One' and the area behind the net became known as 'Gretzky's office' as he hung around to score goals and provide more assists than anyone had previously.
It was a good night for the GAA in the Aviva Stadium last Tuesday as two great families, the Egans and the Hourihanes, enjoyed a very proud night.
The league has nearly always been the unloved cousin in the GAA. For many years it was 'only the league' as managers and players looked forward to the championship. Sometimes it even appeared as if it was in some way a hindrance to success later in the year.
It was a meat and two veg day at Croke Park on Friday, but it produced scenes of unconfined joy. And that even applied to the men who have mined on the county stage, especially Colm 'Gooch' Cooper, the mascot of 25 years ago and now the hometown hero.
The spring version of the Super 8 is on at present. It is called the Allianz Football League and, like all competitions where teams of similar ability are grouped together, it is proving quite entertaining.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. These words were spoken by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 when he argued that slavery must be abolished and that separate rules could not apply in different parts of his country.
We are only two weeks into the Allianz League but it is already clear how increasingly difficult it is to manage an inter-county team. Part of the reason is that players are less accepting of low standards and less tolerant, and there is no doubt that the effort required relative to the chance of some tangible reward is turning players off in big numbers.
Last Sunday was a beautiful day for football, and there was plenty of it.
The League was once a beautiful competition. Three games before Christmas, four after. No fixture congestion, no pressure that I can recall, except of course when you got to Croke Park and finals. Then it was all about winning.
When Dublin beat Kildare in the O'Byrne Cup semi-final there was a lot of comment about the state of football in the rest of Leinster if the Dubs could reach the final of the competition with a third team. The right way to look at this was not the weakness of others but the strength of Dublin.
Don't hold your breath on this one, but would it be too much to ask that at least the bones of a proper fixtures system could be agreed this year? Or at least that some committee could be put in place to carry out an examination of cause and effect?
The new Club Players' Association had a fairly heavyweight brigade lined up for its launch last week. The very existence of this group and the language of frustration that was evident indicates clearly how the GAA has become a leaderless, rudderless organisation with no clear vision of itself or where it is going.
Mayo - the story and county that just keeps on giving. They can't help themselves. When things are quiet for writers at this time of year, there is always something silly happening in Mayo. After other counties who are successful have battened down the hatches for the winter, there is always Mayo.
Patrick O'Donovan, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, announced last week that by 2019 any sports body with more than 10 employees has to have female representation of at least 30 per cent on its board in order to secure the full amount of State funding.
If you'd searched hard enough last week, you could have found out that the Railway Cup semi-finals were scheduled for yesterday. As it turned out, the funeral of Danny Murphy meant that the games involving Ulster were postponed until today, so supporters have another chance to see them.
Last week we got another airing of the black card. The referee from the All-Ireland final replay, Maurice Deegan, disclosed that he should have sent John Small off in the game but the other two he sent off were correct decisions.
One organisation, the GPA, represents about three per cent of the playing population and receives millions in funding from the GAA. Then there is the recently formed Club Players' Association, which was set up by Declan Brennan and like-minded friends of the GAA. They don't, and won't, get any funding from Croke Park for the other poor unfortunates who make up the remaining 97 per cent of the Association. Riddle me that, as Dennis the Menace used to say in The Beano.
When the IRFU announced its bid for the Rugby World Cup this week there were a lot of GAA people wondering where the catch was. On paper, it looks as if this is a complete win-win situation for the GAA - they get somebody else to pay for improving their grounds and get a big lump of money for rent as well. It might even make some of the decisions regarding the building of stadiums around the country look half-sensible.
It's Trump time, which means an era of uncontrolled capitalism. The great comb over could have learned about it all by studying the GAA at this time of year as hundreds of clubs decide they need a new manager. The old one who did it for nothing has to be replaced and the new boss has to be from outside and if he costs a packet then all the better.
Colm O'Rourke explains why winning the county title with his son on board was one of his best days in sport.
The author of the proposal on the format for the All-Ireland football championship is unclear. Whether it is Paraic Duffy alone or a joint initiative from all the main officials in Croke Park is not set out in the document, but it has been sent around to reputable people - and probably quite a few disreputable people - to get their views.
I noticed recently that Dessie Farrell is stepping down from the onerous task of guiding the GPA so I thought to myself that this was a great opportunity for a fellow like me to improve myself on the political side of the GAA and apply for the job. Naturally enough, this role is one of great importance so I decided it might be appropriate to test my credentials by way of an open letter to the public and see if there is any merit in a full-blown application for the job.
The greatest defender of the modern era has called time. Tomás Ó Sé was a prince of defenders; he could play rough or smooth, and he was the sort of man who you needed on a big day, because he always performed.
Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad is an old Latin phrase which Mayo have given a more modern meaning to. The agony continues and again they have contributed greatly to their own downfall. Mayo teams have a great capacity to undermine heroic effort with a wild attempt at Russian roulette. This time it manifested itself with a goalkeeping decision which to...
The old order restored. The conventional wisdom is that when champions and hot favourites get a second chance they will be able to make the small adjustments necessary to get them over the line. And so it turned out even if it was like Waterloo, a close-run affair. Dublin have again cast Mayo into this state of constant disappointment for nothing more than being the better team when it...
By half-time last Sunday I was beginning to wonder was there some supernatural reason why Mayo were being blighted by such outrageous bad fortune. Not a curse because I certainly do not believe in such a thing. Yet I cannot recall an own goal in a big game, let alone two.
Many people are wondering what is going on in the teaching profession, where two unions, the INTO and TUI, have accepted the Lansdowne Road agreement, while the ASTI remains outside. Even more so now, when two of the main roadblocks have been successfully negotiated by the other unions, namely restoration of pay and the differential in income for newly qualified teachers, which was wrong and is about to be phased out, even if the ASTI was very late to even bother taking up their case.
The story goes that when AIG wanted to spend big on sports sponsorship in Ireland, the GAA at central level tried their best to entice them into sponsoring the All-Ireland football championship, the biggest event in town.
In writing about big games I take a fairly detached, cold view of proceedings. In this case I will start off by dropping all pretence and openly state that I would like to see Mayo win. For far too long Mayo players and people have had to put up with snide remarks about being losers. Just because you lose, does not make you a loser. I played in five county finals before I won one. Perhaps I...
For the next seven days the players of Dublin and Mayo will occupy a parallel universe to the average person. They will still live in the usual place, do the same job or go to the same college.
If there was a better sporting contest in the world last Sunday I have not heard about it. Maybe there was a more entertaining rugby, soccer, basketball, hockey or cricket match which has escaped my notice, but it would be hard to find a more enthralling or fiercely contested match than the latest thriller between Dublin and Kerry.
When Kevin McManamon scored that famous goal against Kerry in the 2011 All-Ireland final and Stephen Cluxton scored the winning point from a free, there were many happy to see a Dublin squad who had been around for a while get their day in the sun.
There have been three semi-finals in hurling already. Games that have thrilled the nation as something distinctly Irish and played with incredible skill, passion and sportsmanship - the sort of matches that a tourist visiting this country would marvel at.
What have Diarmuid Connolly, Seán Cavanagh, Aidan O'Shea, James O'Donoghue, Colm Cooper, Bernard Brogan, Peter Canavan, Bernard Flynn, Brian Stafford, Michael Donnellan, Ja Fallon, Jimmy Barry-Murphy, Dinny Allen, Mike Sheehy, Bomber Liston, Pat Spillane, Jimmy Keaveney, James McCartan senior and junior, Mickey Linden, Greg Blaney, Seán O'Neill, Paddy Doherty, John Keenan, Cyril Dunne, Tony McTague, Mattie McDonagh, Kevin Heffernan, Mick O'Dwyer - among many others - all got in common?
The only conclusion I can draw from the new championship proposals is that discrimination against the weaker counties - or the less successful ones to give the more politically correct term - has become so ingrained at the top of the GAA that the feeling is that there will be no rebellion from the poor and downtrodden.
Dublin should have been out of sight long before the end. Diarmuid Connolly had two great goal chances, but spurned both. Yet his two points in the first half, off either foot, showed his exceptional talent.
My old friends in the GPA did a good deal last week. I am not sure exactly who it is good for but any agreement which gives the players' body a share of commercial revenue is a big winner for them.
Gripe number one: Last week Kildare and Laois played in the Leinster minor final. Kildare won easily. "So what?" you might say.
Last Sunday saw the ultimate bastardisation (if you are allowed to use that term in a polite Sunday newspaper) of the once noble game of football.
This is a final of possibilities. Galway and Roscommon can get to the All-Ireland quarter-finals by a direct route against some of the touring counties.
The GAA family is remarkably resilient. Despite the competition from, and great interest in, the European Championships from a broad sporting public, the television viewing figures for Gaelic football and hurling matches have held up. Add in that the football championship has been an ongoing bore and it is amazing to consider that so many followers live in a constant state of optimism. They seem to believe that the next match will be the one to banish the dark clouds.
Before 1991, Meath and Dublin were kept apart in Leinster, so the sides met in the previous five provincial finals. So when the Leinster Council decided on an open draw for 1991, it was fate that the two old rivals would meet in the preliminary round. The funny thing is that at the time the Leinster Council thought it might be a financial disaster as finals between the two were huge money-spinners.
Something is rotten in the State of Denmark, as the line from Hamlet informed us. It is spoken by one of the palace guards after he sees the ghost of the old king walking on the palace walls. There were probably a few saying the same thing in Cork after the defeat to Tipperary last Sunday. There are plenty of old ghosts, in a mortal form, walking the streets as a reminder that Cork once had both footballers and hurlers.
It happens fairly regularly in club matches that referees get the score wrong. Very often it is of no consequence, but even in a club junior league game where things are tight, there is sometimes debate over the actual score, especially in a high-scoring game where there might be a one-point difference.
Everyone has a particular impression of certain counties. It is very easy then to hold a view when thinking of Monaghan and Down in football terms. Very close in terms of distance but miles apart in perception.
It is only fitting to begin with a tribute to two great men of the GAA who died recently, Jack Boothman and Joe McDonagh. I have always had a healthy suspicion of top officials because I feel there are often too many compromises needed to get to the top of the greasy pole and too many pay-offs afterwards. Just like all politics.
Tyrone and Derry form one of the great rivalries with all the spite and venom which is needed in any encounter where big championship games are decided. There are others who fit a similar bill but many of these are for those with long memories. Matches between Meath and Dublin, Cork and Kerry, Mayo and Galway once set the blood boiling for both players and supporters. Now they are...
The American group Green Day had a hit in 2005 with ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’. Summer has come and passed, the innocent can never last, wake me up when September ends.
Some players might ask "is there life after county football?". "Is there a life with county football?" is a more appropriate question. And what about the club player?
The reality check came on Monday morning. 'Well you got that one wrong.' The only word missing was 'badly'. I wrote last week that I expected Kerry to put up a huge fight and that they would probably win the game. Many of the Kerry people I met in Croke Park before the match were of the same opinion and they turned out in big numbers to support their team. They went home fairly deflated.
Lightning generally does not strike twice in Kerry but it is getting a bit repetitive where Dublin are concerned. The wheel has turned full circle.
If you think about all the various groups who have built the GAA into a world power with bases all over the developed and sometimes undeveloped world, then primary school teachers are probably the one group who should get the gold medal for contribution.
There was a time when winning the league really mattered. That was when there was only one title and teams from all divisions had a shot at it. Meath won it a couple of times from the second division, and if that style of competition had been retained there would be eight teams involved now.
I hoped when I commented a few weeks back about the number of cards being shown by some referees that the situation might improve. The wave of yellow and black cards in particular is destroying the game. Sadly, it has not got any better in the meantime.
Who do Geoff Claffey, Niall Daly, Enda Smith, David Murray, Neil Collins and Seán Purcell play for? I think a lot of football supporters would not guess correctly. And it is not a Division 3 or 4 team. If you add in Seán McDermott, Cathal Cregg and Senan Kilbride there are some - but maybe not too many - who would get it right. It is strange that the players who have made the most progress this year, and who are playing some of the most attractive football in the country, remain largely unknown outside their own county, Roscommon.
George Osborne showed a bit of leadership last week. No, he is not a player with a weaker county, nor is he a GAA official. He is Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain or the equivalent of the Minister for Finance on this side of the big river. And Osborne signalled that a sugar tax will be introduced in two years; it is estimated that it will yield about £500m and this money will be ring-fenced for...
Last week I watched five games live and about the same again on television. This is not scientific research but there are a few conclusions. The first one is that the referees need to get their act together with both yellow and black cards. The black one has morphed into something which was never intended and has become a real joke in the manner that it is now being interpreted.
A delegate once told me the only problem with Congress is the voting and the debating. It's a bit like the Cavan man who was in the Antarctic and his only complaint was the cold.
The wheels of club activity are being oiled in every county. The bag of jerseys from last year is being rooted out, new balls acquired, a set of fancy bibs for training and plenty of cones too. Somebody will come up with a sponsor for a brand new set of jerseys and a few replacement bulbs for the lights.
The GAA army marches on Carlow next weekend for the annual congress of the Association.
There must have been audible gasps in most counties a few weeks ago when the games development grant distribution table was published by the GAA. How could Dublin be getting almost a million and half when most other counties got less than €50,000?
There is no hanging about in this league if last Sunday is anything to go by. A new year and a bucketful of enthusiasm. What is obvious too is that the state of pitches is going to dictate the type of football played. On Saturday night in Croke Park the sod was as usual and the pace of the first half between Kerry and Dublin was like championship in August. It was a different league, if you pardon the pun, to what was in evidence on Sunday.
If you are a principal of a secondary school and league tables emerge, the first thing is the rush to check your position. A bit like checking the Premiership table on a Sunday morning.
Did any of you notice the big advertisement campaign for the start of the league? The giant billboard posters featuring Kerry and Dublin in full battle mode? The dramatic TV ads and the radio sound bites reflecting on commentary of great games of the past? Well, if you missed it, so did everybody because there was none.
The ball came across the goal. I pulled on it first time and it took off in a great loop and into the corner of the net. I was up and running, a club player.
With the GAA, things always turn full circle. In clubs, the officers are turfed out after some secret meeting before the AGM; the manager is told to get lost because the players always think there is someone better; and then within a few years, the same thing happens all over again.
The Christmas truce is over. So, it was with great interest that I read Vincent Hogan's in-depth interview with Dessie Farrell of the GPA in last Saturday's Irish Independent. And unless I am missing something here, it showed no depth to the GPA.
Reading John Costello's annual report, one is immediately struck by the fact that his account of Dublin County Board's year more resembles that of a large trading company than a traditional GAA unit. Dublin is bigger than the GAA itself, in identity, scope and maybe efficiency too.
A Cavan man wrote to me recently to say I was being far too kind to NAMA and it was time I was a bit tougher. And I thought I had being doing that.
Sometimes this old lady, commonly called the GAA, has the power to make decisions which cause distraction and send people to a home for the bewildered and utterly confused.
Always strange the way you see things when out and about without a shotgun. That great institution Nama, which has done the State so little service, rumbles on. A few months ago, I drew attention to the disgrace of the Spawell centre in Dublin which many believe should have gone to the Dublin GAA but instead was sold off to some unknown investor, despite the Dublin County Board being...
The runaway train that is football fixtures has been tackled. Páraic Duffy has made 11 recommendations, and now it's up to the GAA world. This was once a make-believe place where competitions were added on but never cut.
This month 40 years ago, I played my first competitive game for Meath, in the league against Mayo. There was no sponsor's name on our jerseys, players kicked the ball off the ground for frees and sideline kicks, there was far less handpassing and there was no such thing as yellow or red cards, never mind black. There were three subs, who were only put on when the game was lost or somebody got a terrible injury and the corner-forward was always taken off, even if the midfielder was getting a roasting.
The Mayo footballers better be sure of their next move or they could end up like Fletcher Christian and his crew who took over the Bounty in 1789 and had to live out their lives in Tahiti and Pitcairn islands. Some were eventually captured and brought back to Britain so the Mayo footballers could hardly head for Achill and cut off all ties with the rest of the world now that they have wielded the knife.