Friday 15 November 2019

Colm O'Rourke: Time to end this bulls*** tradition in GAA

False sentiments and false impressions are no use to anyone

'Feargal Logan is a thoroughly decent man but the practice of going to speak to losing players after a game should be banned'
'Feargal Logan is a thoroughly decent man but the practice of going to speak to losing players after a game should be banned'
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

When the Tipperary County Board, or some of their officers, or their under 21 team management, decided not to let Feargal Logan into their dressing room after the All-Ireland final, they did the entire football community a service.

Logan is a thoroughly decent man but the practice of going to speak to losing players after a game should be banned. Maybe there should even be a law against it.

The law could be called 'a ban on incitement to bullshit'. There is no more uncomfortable place in the world for a manager of a winning team after an All-Ireland. That manager does not want to be in the losing dressing room and the losing players don't want him there either. All they want is their team-mates and their thoughts. Has any opposing manager ever said one thing to make a player feel better after a big loss?

I have always made it my business to go to congratulate the winners after being beaten. I have had to do it after Leinster Colleges finals, All-Ireland finals and senior championship finals. Too often. When the winning manager would then say he would come down to our dressing room I would always reply there is no need. It is usually a relief to them. Sportsmanship does not enter into it. Congratulate the winners, losers go home.

So Feargal Logan or anyone else in Tyrone should not take umbrage at Tipperary's response. Tipperary should also have been asking the referee how a Tyrone player could get a red card, yet Tyrone still got a free out. Surely that had to be a free in or at worst a throw-up?

Some will probably hark back to the great GAA tradition of visiting losing dressing rooms. Like a lot of other great GAA traditions, it needs to be dumped quickly. In the same way speeches before presenting cups should be treated as a health hazard and included in the aforementioned Act of Parliament. No disrespect to chairmen, bishops or presidents but nobody wants to hear a word from any of them. The stage is for the players. Give the cup to the captain and if he wants to roar into the microphone, well, there has to be certain tolerances.

On a different note, it's great to see the pitch-opening and challenge-match circuit is in full swing. Cue more disruption to clubs.

A pitch opening is a slightly different animal to a challenge match. It's an important event for a club which has probably spent a lot of money. The pitch opening, complete with inter-county challenge, is a chance to get some dough back. It is a chance to get out the best china and for members to glow with pride.

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When I was playing for Meath we opened a lot of pitches and if things fell right and the opposition were going places, it could be a bonanza, sometimes even going a long way to clearing debts. Now there are the very smart clubs who open something new every few years and reap the rewards. The level of ingenuity in the GAA at club level knows no bounds. It is also important to put a player on the county side from the club for the match; every club likes to see one of their own recognised.

The challenge match circuit is something very different. These will be going full tilt for the next month and are often played far away from prying eyes. They are useful for the first 40 or 50 minutes. Then all those who will never get a game are sent on and the match becomes a useless exercise. I do not recall any player in my time who played himself onto a team from performances in a challenge game. More often than not they can give an entirely false picture of where you are at and if there was an All-Ireland challenge match championship there would be some unusual winners every year.

In these type of games there are different categories of players. Those who know they are going to play on the big days ahead just go through the motions and won't kill themselves. Their main hope is that they don't pick up an injury. An opposition player can look very good on one of these men.

Then there are those who are completely unmotivated by such games and will look pedestrian and uninterested - because they are. They need the roar of the crowd and the nervousness that a championship match brings. When others shrivel up under pressure these players grow. A good manager needs to know who fits into this category or taking a challenge match at face value could mean leaving some of these on the line.

Then there are the challenge match stars. These men can do all the tricks when there is no pressure but disappear like a puff of smoke when there is a bit of heat on.

Tyrone don't do challenge matches for some or all of these reasons and internal full-on games are probably a far more reliable indicator of how lads are going as you can match up players from the different groups.

Not only that but challenge matches are a costly exercise for county boards too as well as disrupting clubs. If fixtures were right there would be a natural follow on from league to championship where there would be no need for the chicken and chips circuit. Built in to that would be protection of clubs and it is not just possible but quite easily done to keep both club and county working at ease with each other. Of course everybody could adopt the Dublin model and that would solve nearly all problems for county v club clashes.

As of now, up to 16 clubs are out of the Dublin senior championship and anyone with a hurler on their club team was in a very difficult position with hurling training still going on. What does a man do in these circumstances? Well you would like to think he would say, "I am going with my club" but life is not so simple. Anyway while Dublin sweep all before them at all levels, most clubs are out of the championship which is good for students who can now decide which American city to head for in the summer.

Clubs will still have plenty of club football over the summer - without county players mainly - but a league is a league is a league. The championship is the thing for everyone. In autumn the final series of games in the Dublin championship will be exciting and of a very high standard. The winners will have a great chance of at least winning the Leinster club championship but many will not have another club championship match for nearly a year. The turkeys who voted for this deserve Christmas.

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