Wednesday 13 December 2017

Colm O'Rourke: The GAA would be much better off giving this money to the homeless

‘This modern fashion of standing with their arms around each other is for underage girls’ football and looks a bit false’. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
‘This modern fashion of standing with their arms around each other is for underage girls’ football and looks a bit false’. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

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?

If a team keeps getting beaten by a cricket score in the Championship, why is it surprising that good players who are up to county standard will not want to play? Why will there be no support base? Answers to Croke Park on the back of a stamp please.

If a county played in a Championship where their ability was taken into account, where they had a chance of success and were guaranteed at least a couple of games in Croke Park every year, would they have a better chance of getting their best players out? Answers on the back of a smaller stamp to Croke Park please.

Not to mention finance. My estimation is that at least €5m is being wasted every year on the preparation of counties for competitions that they have no chance in. Would it not be better to spend less money on getting teams ready for a competition that they had a realistic chance of actually winning? The GAA would be much better off giving this money to the homeless in their counties than what is happening at present.

Some day soon a clever county chairman who operates in one of the 20 lowest-rated counties is going to have a eureka moment where he decides to spend no money on senior county football in its present form. After that there will the domino effect where others decide similarly.

Let's hope for a few brave men who can handle the truth in 2017. Maybe 101 years later another revolution will be spawned. This one will be a lot more difficult and will be more Civil War than War of Independence.

It would be nice to think that the GPA would make some contribution to this debate. Perhaps describing them as having a credibility issue in most people's minds would be the understatement of the year but at least Dermot Earley, a thoroughly decent man, should be given a chance to make his mark.

Otherwise the Club Players Association should take over the GPA as they cater for everyone anyway - providing a pair of socks and togs for all players is more important than spending millions on some extra nutritional fads for a few.

Could we also see the replays of all incidents in Croke Park every year? The North Korean department in charge of censorship would be proud of whatever group in Croke Park, who obviously feel that there would be mass rioting on the pitch if a replay showed someone giving another player a right uppercut. Protect the poor old ref is the best excuse given. They hear and see worse in some under 14 games. In rugby, where spectators see acts of gross misconduct, there are still no pitch invasions. Is it that a superior class of people go to rugby than all of us bogmen? No answers on stamps, envelopes or long letters to Croke Park on this one. They might not like the replies.

Black cards, black cards, black cards. This is to emphasise that they have not gone away, you know. Maybe they could be used properly this year. Almost all big games last year were blighted in part or in full by giving ones in the wrong or not giving them at all. Unfortunately players are now going to ground to get players sent off. Keep them for obvious body-checking, deliberate jersey-pulling and start giving them for sledging. Remove the scope for complete cock-ups.

Could all players stand shoulder to shoulder, (oh no, that rugby influence again) with their marker when the National Anthem is being played? Nothing like looking in your opponent's eyes for the last minute before the game. This modern fashion of standing with their arms around each other is for underage girls' football and looks a bit false. Forget about security in numbers and face down your man.

Perhaps too this could be the year of the comeback in football. Not by any team but the game itself. Some teams might change their style and start playing the ball forward faster and even use the foot to do so.

There is a team called Dublin who play a style of football which is nice to look at and which yields results. Other sides should copy this rather than those who incessantly handpass across the pitch and win nothing. So managers be brave: better to go down by having a go than pulling the blanket over your head and putting out the white flag.

As we look forward to 2017 and bigger games beginning, we lost one of the great footsoldiers this week when Raymond Mooney of Skryne, Meath and long-serving former teacher in St Patrick's Classical School Navan, went over the hill. It would be hard to over-emphasise Ray's work in education and his unselfish work for the GAA. He was the ultimate low-key man: he did the work while others talked and never expected or wanted thanks. His roles included manager of championship-winning teams in '92 and '93, a side I was fortunate to be part of, which broke a long losing sequence of finals for Skryne. He also painted the gates, sprayed the weeds, collected at the gate, trained the underage teams, and anything and everything that was needed.

For big games in Páirc Tailteann he was there too, always helping out.

In St Pat's, he spent about 45 years helping out the juvenile teams, and much of the success at senior level in colleges football over the last 20 years was directly attributable to his emphasis on skill development from the day those young men came to the school.

He encouraged them to kick the ball, not to be afraid to make mistakes, and enjoy themselves. Perhaps that is radical now at senior inter-county level, where fear of mistakes takes over from free expression.

Ray never wanted awards or thanks and would have been embarrassed by the tributes paid to him this week. Once he did not bother going to a dinner dance where he was going to get some award. When I asked him why not, he just laughed and said: "I heard all those speeches before."

In school he was a loyal colleague who particularly loved teaching Latin and a lot of young men around Navan will always be thankful for the time he put in, way above the call of duty, to make sure they were catered for. Jobs, career paths, and learning were all part of his daily routine for his students. He would be especially happy now that Latin is back on the curriculum in St Pat's and proving very popular too.

During his illness he never complained; he figured everyone was doing their best for him. As such he was stoic in nature and thankful for everything. Every club and every school needs a Raymond Mooney; hard working, non-confrontational and without ego. He was just a wonderful, decent and generous man.

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