Saturday 18 November 2017

Would a global GAA league be out of this world?

ALL the GAA talk this week is about Dublin's utter demolition of Derry in Sunday's Division One League final . . .

Right now it's impossible to see beyond the defending champions doing it again this year, and the fact that Cork and Mayo are next best at 6/1 suggests the bookmakers only see one winner of Sam Maguire this year.

Incidentally, Kerry are quoted at 12/1 – surely the longest they have been at the start of an All-Ireland Championship for many, many years – and right now, with news of Kieran Donaghy's shoulder injury, that might represent very good value for Kerry.

Anyway, far away from Dublin, Cork and Croke Park in September, the Championship actually gets underway this weekend with Mayo travelling to New York to face the locals in the Connacht Championship. With three Kerry men in the New York panel and Waterville native Ian Galvin donning the bainisteoir's bib there should be some Kerry interest in the match, but in essence the Championship will get off to a whimper rather than a bang.

New York - unlike London - have yet to win a game in the Connacht Championship and that losing streak is hardly going to change this year with Mayo rocking up to Gaelic Park. It's a noble idea to have New York competing in the All-Ireland Championship, but to what end does it serve anyone any good.

For the travelling Connacht county it's an expense they could well do without, even if the some of the cost is defrayed by the Connacht and Central Councils.

For the New Yorkers it's a futile exercise because they have no League games to use as preparation and no way of getting themselves up to Championship pace.

If the GAA is serious about continuing to have New York in the Championship - and expecting them to be competitive - might there not be a better way to go about it. What about running a 'world league' during the spring whereby the strongest eight football teams around the world could compete in two groups of four with a league final to decide which one competes in Connacht that year.

What about the two best North American teams, the Canadian champions and the Europe champions in one group, and two from Australia / New Zealand and two from Asia / Middle East in the other? Shouldn't the idea of a truly global GAA league excite? But what about the cost, you implore? Indeed.

For years the GAA has sent All Star teams to far-flung places, occasionally fixed Railway Cup finals abroad, and continue to send an Ireland team to Australia on a bi-annual basis for an International Rules Series that has failed to grab the public's imagination in numbers that could justify the cost involved.

Believe us when we say the money is there.

If the GAA is sincere about bringing the games to the diaspora via Sky Sports and online digital streaming, then surely it could put up the money to make such an international league work. Wouldn't an actual pan-continental league be a much more real way of promoting the GAA then simply beaming matches to those living abroad?

Or put it another way? How far would the GAA's share of two Garth Brooks or One Direction concerts stretch to make a worldwide league a reality?


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