Sunday 25 March 2018

Looking forward to the action ON the field

I WAS looking forward primarily to reviewing the weekend action in this column, but events off the field in the middle of last week have taken precedence.

The latest twist in the Lee Chin racial abuse saga is outlined in detail in the news section by Maria Pepper, but I feel compelled to comment as a frustrated and angry member of the Sarsfields club.

The events of last April have been well documented, and so was the universal reaction of disapproval at what happened and the desire of everybody to ensure that greater penalties be imposed for similar offences in future.

All of the G.A.A. figures asked for an opinion at the time made the right noises and vowed to support my club in our efforts to introduce a motion for discussion and hopefully approval at Congress.

We consulted widely across various strands of the Association before putting pen to paper in advance of last December's Co. Convention. Indeed, just five days before that gathering, two of our officers attended a meeting of the National Inclusion and Integration committee in Croke Park and were assured that everything was on course and in order.

The clubs of Wexford fully backed our proposal as we expected, but we received the ultimate kick in the teeth last week when we were informed that it has been deemed out of order by the Central Council on foot of a recommendation from the Rules Advisory committee. The reason? Our motion seeks to change a playing rule, but these can only be discussed in years divisible by five.

In short, it will be 2015 before effective change can be implemented, and to say we are seething is putting it mildly. The reason for our annoyance is quite simple: at no stage in this process were we informed that this might happen, even though we discussed the matter in detail and sought advice and assistance from various quarters.

My club is composed of volunteers who rely on our full-time officials to guide us in these matters. So we want to know why were we led astray and what the G.A.A. proposes to do about it? There's something seriously amiss when a Croke Park employee can invite our club to a meeting on December 12 and voice approval for our motion, only for another body to shoot it down a little over a month later with no prior warning.

The young man caught in the middle, Lee Chin (pictured), has been let down badly by the Association he represents with such distinction. He has been a shining star with every G.A.A. team he has represented, from St. Mary's (Maudlintown) who developed his love for the games on to Faythe Harriers, Sarsfields and various inter-county teams. What message does this latest development convey? It makes me sick to be truthful.

This wasn't the only example of the G.A.A. shooting itself in the foot since my last column, as I have another example from last Sunday, albeit on a smaller scale. Wexford County Board, to their credit, tried to arrange for a concession to be given to supporters attending the Walsh Cup game in Blackwater and then travelling in to Wexford Park for the league match.

However, because the matches were under the control of two different bodies, namely the Leinster Council for the hurling and our old friends the Central Council for the football, anyone making the effort to support both of our county teams on Sunday had to pay the combined total of €23 after rushing from one venue to the other.

I will ask the questions on the lips of every G.A.A. follower: are the two bodies not part of the one Association? Surely to God some arrangement could have been reached to facilitate an overall admission fee of no more than €20? Why does the G.A.A. treat the people it relies on the most with such contempt?

Contrast this with the happenings in Munster on Sunday last, where the Waterford Crystal Cup and Dr. Harty Cup semi-finals took place at North Tipperary venues within five miles of each other at 12 noon and 2.30 p.m. respectively.

Both involved Tipperary and Limerick teams so to accommodate supporters wishing to see both games, patrons were able to purchase a special package ticket for €15 at the Waterford Crystal Cup semi-final in Dolla at 12 noon which then also entitled them to admission to the Dr. Harty Cup semi-final in Nenagh - a saving of almost 20%.

So why couldn't this be done in Wexford too? Because the Munster Council had control of the two games in Tipperary, whereas this wasn't the case here as outlined above. The G.A.A. politicians might see this as a perfectly plausible reason, but for most of the people caught up in that situation on Sunday it is simply a load of rubbish.

Thank God for the players and the matches is all I can say, because they are thriving in spite of the messing which continues on a daily basis in the corridors of power. Despite all that happened last week, the games will keep me coming back for more, and I managed to see five of them 'in the flesh' last weekend.

The first port of call was Parnell Park on Saturday afternoon where Dublin defeated a Joe Canning-less Galway by 2-19 to 1-21 in the Walsh Cup semi-final. On the face of it, any win by the boys in blue over last year's All-Ireland finalists would have to be reviewed in a positive light given their complete capitulation last season.


However, the fact of the matter is that the Dubs were hard pressed to secure the win even though Galway had midfielder Andy Smith red-carded for an offence spotted by a linesman in the first-half. Johnny McCaffrey opened brightly for the winners in the unusual role of centre-forward while corner-back Rúairí Trainor was very impressive, and they will provide a good litmus test for where Liam Dunne's side really stands at present next weekend.

From Donnycarney I made the short trip down to Croke Park for the start of the Spring Series which attracted a smaller than expected attendance of 28,693, largely due to the counter-attraction of the televised rugby game earlier in the day I would surmise.

To be fair, this entire concept is an example of what the G.A.A. can do well: great value for patrons, a family-friendly atmosphere, a nice tribute on the big screens to the late Kevin Heffernan, and a fireworks display to mark the start of the venue's 100th birthday celebrations.

As for Sunday, someone questioned my reference in last week's column to needing bi-location rather than tri-llocation to see all three games. Of course, that's all that was required given that the times of the two Wexford games were staggered, so the only one I missed out on was Oulart-The Ballagh's camogie defeat to Milford.

Most of those players have had little or no break between club and county commitments in recent years, and I'm guessing that fatigue - mental as much as physical - may have been a factor in this defeat.

It was a better day for Wexford and it was particularly pleasing to see the footballers getting off the mark in the game that really counted after three losses in the less important O'Byrne Cup. Both teams will face stronger opponents next weekend, but there's a lot of positive vibes emanating from their camps and we wish them the very best.

That last-gasp victory over Longford would have pleased the late John Fardy no end. This stalwart of many past battles with Gusserane and Wexford passed to his eternal reward last week and his presence will be missed at games thoughout the county and beyond.

A giant of a man in the physical sense, I'm told he guarded his patch with defiance in the good old days and leaves a store of pleasant memories for those fortunate enough to witness him in action.

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