Thursday 23 November 2017

As the Cork fiasco comes back to haunt us all, players must get ready for plenty of form filling and training

THE old Cork saga is really coming back to bite everyone. With Roscommon objecting to points being awarded to Meath and Dublin the outcome of division two of the League is not going to be cleared up on the field of play.

From the very beginning I have said here that the decision to give Meath and Dublin the advantage was grossly unfair on all the others. Roscommon are quite right in their protest. I have argued that Cork were either in or out and, I thought, they should have been allowed play all their games. The obvious thing, if a penalty was deemed necessary, was to start them off at minus four points but they could still play all their games.

This has happened in soccer and is deemed fair and reasonable. Last year Leeds had some financial irregularities -- a nice way of putting things -- and had to start this season at -15 points. They are now up to tenth place, if they had the 15 points they would be in second. I keep a blind eye on their progress as back in the 1970s I was a supporter when 'Sniffer' Clarke, Billy Bremner, John Giles, Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton dominated and terrorised the English League.

The Leeds principle and Cork have a lot in common. Start Cork off at minus four and let them fight for survival, it would be the same for all and could anyone object to fairness?

Now to what for me are less serious matters. Last week the GAA published a very thorough document on how the new player 'grants' scheme will be administered. The players can get ready for plenty of form filling if all of this document is to be believed as it is not just automatic that the money will be forthcoming. Vouched expenses will be paid up to a maximum of €2,500 and this is for those who qualify for the All-Ireland final, for the rest it is on a sliding scale down to a minimum of €1,400.

Players would not be the best for filling out forms so there may be no promises of cheques in the post unless some user friendly system is put in place. I presume it will be. The committee should get a bit of help from farmers in this regard, they have been very creative in maximising EU and Government grants for the last 35 years, this would be a soft touch.

Since I wrote about this scheme last, I have had people from the 'Of One Belief' group in contact, who have taken serious issue with my comments about them going to the DRA. They are entitled to their opinion and will get the chance to make them in this paper, but I have not changed my mind, even if they think I went in with all studs showing.

As far as I am concerned, if the Government is willing to give our elite players a small amount of money then good luck to the players, they should take it. Yet inbuilt in the scheme is a way out for conscientious objectors: they can allow their money go into a team fund; or the group could decide to put the money into a holiday fund or back the favourite in the bumper at Fairyhouse for all most people care.

These grants, which are exercising this group's time and energy so much, have never been brought up once in any GAA conversation I have been involved in. Maybe I am living in a bit of a bubble of refined conversation but when the opening up of Croke Park or the RUC being allowed into the GAA was for debate then there was plenty of wide and varied opinion. This one, however, is a non-issue for the masses.

Now that the GAA has opened Croke Park I hope too they never shut the door, €7.5m last year available for distribution, how bad is that? And the GAA has gone its merry way without suffering too much, some who are whiter than the driven snow may have left in protest, but the ship sailed on. An example of absolute adaptability.

Man is a social animal and that is why people get involved in clubs and will continue to do so, they want their children to become part of a community and that is not going to change in the same way if some players get grants as it has not changed just because there are paid administrators or paid coaches.

Now I am not quite sure from the document what extra functions will be expected of players to get this money, but most of what is listed in the document is being done already — and a lot more.

The committee in charge is made up of three Central Council members and two from the GPA which is de facto recognition of their place. A good solution too as the GPA should be invited to participate in all major decisions as the most important party to them. And once in the democratic process they will have to accept decisions that they might not like. If they are left outside the tent then there is the tendency to relieve themselves in the wrong direction.

Anyway the document is clear on one thing: that this is no threat to amateurism and it is hard to find any argument against that as the GAA are not paying any player. A hundred years ago the British upper classes regarded the amateur as the only real sportsman, those paid to play were inferior. Perhaps history does repeat itself.

To finish, the club finals are always a brilliant occasion for the foot soldiers of the GAA and last week was more of the same. The football final was not without controversy as there should have been at least another couple of minutes of injury time, why not let the fourth official decide the extra time and tell the ref — not the other way round — the ref has enough to do.

Anyway it was a great day for St Vincent’s and especially for Mickey Whelan who is a hard man to keep down. Mickey is not especially young, he stopped the clock at sixty-something a good while ago. I told someone last week that he was born before the war and they asked was it the first world war or the second.

Anyway it is fantastic to see a man with so much passion, energy and enthusiasm for the game. He is also a great advertisement for the older generation to stay involved in running teams in the GAA.

This country and the GAA itself is not especially kind to older people, they are often written off when they have a huge amount to offer and usually plenty of time too. As a result they often lose their confidence in running teams, believing, wrongly that young people won’t listen to them. In the US the opposite is the case, experience is all important.

Football does not change no matter what age you are and maybe Mickey Whelan could be the new recruiting officer for pensioners, a type of Lord Kitchener if you like. Mickey would look well in a poster with a heading, Your Club Needs You!

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