Saturday 24 August 2019

Colm O'Rourke: Laois should be kicking up stink over Nowlan Park fiasco

‘Aidan O’Mahony’s rough-house, hardman-type tactics when Kevin McManamon came on as a sub deserved a black card at that stage’
‘Aidan O’Mahony’s rough-house, hardman-type tactics when Kevin McManamon came on as a sub deserved a black card at that stage’
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

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.

Take the decision to bring Dublin on a world tour next year in the Leinster Championship and fix what should be a home game for Laois or Wicklow in Kilkenny.

Now I am all for getting the Dublin circus out of Croke Park and would love to see a system as outlined here last week where they play regularly in different counties during the summer. Good luck with that one, as someone said to me, but Dublin on tour bring colour, atmosphere, big crowds and a lot of business to wherever they travel.

Furthermore, the supporters would be delighted to get on the road in good weather and have a bit of fun and banter in various locations before getting back to headquarters for the serious business.

It must be a complete bore going to Croke Park for most games in the Leinster Championship and hammering everyone out the gate. A change is as good as a rest, even if from a team point of view it would still be a case of veni, vidi, vici. The ground would make no difference to that.

I read with amazement that the Leinster Council had fixed Dublin v Laois or Wicklow for Kilkenny. I thought this was the ultimate wind-up. Fixing a big football match in the only county that does not play in the championship is the ultimate insult to Laois and Wicklow, and every other county too. Blaming it on a lack of seating in Portlaoise is an even bigger joke.

Dublin's supporters congregate in their thousands on Hill 16 - and that's where they want to be. Give most Dublin supporters a choice between standing on a terrace in the summer and sitting in the stand and I think the terrace will win every time. In fact, most of the Dublin travelling army would not thank you for a seat.

Yet the Leinster Council seems to think that if they spend an hour in the car they need to sit down for a rest. How Bizarre was a hit for the New Zealand band OMC back in the 1990s. It should be adopted by the Leinster Council as its new anthem.

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Supporters of the GAA in Laois are quiet people; they should have been kicking up a stink over this. The next time the Laois County Board go looking for sponsorship, for pitch signage and all the other things associated with running the GAA locally, they will be told that they could not even swing a home game for the stadium which ironically the Leinster Council pumped a lot of money into.

The ground in Portlaoise is more than adequate to host this match, provided of course Laois manage to beat Wicklow, and the town's businesses could do with a big Sunday.

This decision should be changed. Putting the match into Nowlan Park will be of little interest to the locals who regard football as some sort of sanctuary for the ignorant masses.

That is fair enough, if that's their view, but they should not be financially rewarded for treating football in their own county as the bubonic plague. If another county board decided to scuttle hurling in this way there would be an outcry from the hurling extremists who do not believe in parity of esteem.

Maybe a lot of other counties should actually copy Kilkenny and have counties and clubs exclusively football or hurling. It would certainly help in making fixtures.

The recent documentary on RTé, All-Ireland Day, gave us a different perspective on this great day. I really enjoyed this programme, and it was particularly interesting to see the relationship between referee and players on the day.

However, the GPA is complaining that their members were not informed that the referee was going to be wired for sound. I know in the past that a lot of referees were wired up and sometimes plugged in too, but we live in a much more civilised world now. Anyway the point is that it would have made absolutely no difference to the players if they were told the referee was miked or if any comment made might result in suspensions later.

Once the game starts, players concentrate on the ball, or in the cases of Philly McMahon and Aidan O'Mahony, on the man. I have given McMahon enough stick in the past, but O'Mahony was shown up badly. Can anyone blame the cameras or the referee for that? His rough-house, hardman-type tactics when Kevin McManamon came on as a sub deserved a black card at that stage, but how did he expect to get away with blatantly pulling a player down? And walking off then, it showed a complete lack of discipline.

Overall, I felt that the players came out of the whole thing very well. Some might consider the language a bit industrial at times, but it was quite mild compared to some of the games I played in. And the relationship between the referee and the players was fairly respectful too. Of course there are going to be conflicts but good refereeing commands respect.

What the programme did show was the raw competitiveness of players striving for All-Ireland success, which is absolutely no different to players in a Rugby World Cup final or a European Champions League final. Money makes no difference to effort or will to win.

Last week I suggested that a trial for limiting handpassing should be introduced in some underage competition. I have suggested that maybe the colleges' football championship would be a great place to start but it may be a bit late for that. If so then the pre-championship county minor leagues which begin in February in each province would be an ideal starting point.

Players at this age adapt easily and there is time to get managers and referees up to speed. It might even encourage people to go to some of these games to see if football - based on the great skills of catching and accurate kicking - can be saved or has the robotic handpasser pushed kicking into extinction?

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