Friday 24 November 2017

Eugene McGee: Time for players to do talking off the pitch

Managers must take a step back to give public and media greater access to the stars

A general view of the main stand with a tree going through it before the start of the FBD League game between Roscommon and Mayo in Michael Glaveys GAA Club in Roscommon David Maher/SPORTSFILE
A general view of the main stand with a tree going through it before the start of the FBD League game between Roscommon and Mayo in Michael Glaveys GAA Club in Roscommon David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

You know what would be a wonderful development for Gaelic football in the season about to start in two weeks' time in the National League?

If some team managers could be told to stop shouting their mouths off week in week out, but allow some of their players to speak to the media instead.

Even in recent weeks, which can rightfully be called the silly season, the managers are in full flow preaching to all and sundry how the GAA should conduct itself, boasting about the wonderful panels of players they have assembled since last year and complaining that their biggest problems this year will be cutting down their panels to fit GAA requirements.

Many of them claim they have discovered so many great players recently, that picking their panels will be a nightmare.

NONSENSE

I even heard a couple of Division 4 teams at this nonsense last week, implying that they will have to lie awake at night wondering how they will be able to drop players from the experimental teams they have been using during the various cup competitions in January.

At least the Armagh manager Paul Grimley did not make any such claims after their McKenna Cup game with Tyrone last Wednesday.

Jim Gavin is the only manager I know that may have a problem selecting his county panel because of available quality.

What may not be very obvious to the vast majority of football followers is that very few county players make themselves available nowadays to talk to reporters from newspapers, radio, television or other media outlets.

This is rarely stated out loud, but GAA journalists know this is the position. It is all part of the control system that most county managers operate nowadays.

There is an ever-increasing tendency for many managers to take more and more control of the lives of their players and part of that policy is to prevent players talking to the media. As a result we rarely see proper interviews any more from county players -- except in one set of circumstances. That is when they get payment for talking, not from the reporters I might add, but instead when the star player is promoting some commercial venture and a media briefing has been set up.

What this means, of course, is that on the following day the same material will be published in every newspaper or other media outlet because all the journalists attend the same press conference as it is one of the few ways they get a chance to talk to players.

In this situation the players will talk because they are getting paid to do so directly or indirectly, although I've been told that some managers are, quite incredibly, still trying to exercise control by putting a limit of five minutes on these inteviews.

In recent years, we have had numerous examples of managers and players being very uncooperative to media people, even in the lead-up to important championship games.

Many times, when so-called 'press nights' are organised, hardly any big-name players turn up and sometimes even the manager will not make an appearance.

This is a fair indication as to how some managers regard the media in general.

But does all this matter to anybody other than the media workers? Well, yes it does, because, among GAA people around the country, there is a huge demand for information, views, interviews, etc about the leading county players and matters relating to the county team.

It has always been a tradition that GAA players and mentors were available, within reason of course, to give their views to the wider GAA populace.

It was part of the culture of the GAA and many a friendly row developed in offices, factories and other such places about what some player said about the approaching big match. That was all part of the enjoyment of being a GAA fan. Now it has largely disappeared and all we get is the odd synthetic gabble of words from players who are getting paid.

The rot set in about 20 years ago when managers started announcing 'buckshee' team line-outs -- that is sending a team sheet to the media and even to the official match programme which were totally incorrect.

This is an insult to the public and still rankles with many GAA people especially when they pay good money for a programme that is deliberately error-strewn.

It is also childish behaviour and reflects badly on those diligent and intelligent managers who still persist in this carry-on.

The latest anti-social GAA behaviour is the decision by a small number of managers, so far, to only hold closed-door training sessions.

A lot of Kerry people were certainly shocked last year when the famous training nights in Killarney were closed to the public and the same has happened elsewhere.

REMEMBER

I remember the time when attending Mick O'Dwyer training sessions was one of the main tourist attractions in Kerry. Do managers not realise that the GAA is above all else of the people and for the people?

The Gaelic county team does not belong to any manager, player, county board official or higher GAA officer. Surely at least some training sessions should be available to the public during the summer?

The GAA has made numerous attempts to improve the situation by calling a halt to certain practices, such as false team selections, but have been laughed at by the managers, much to the embarrassment of many excellent county PROs, who have to stand over this nonsense.

So, maybe we could see a change -- managers to talk far less, and players available on a reasonably regular basis if they have something interesting to say to the media.

Invariably, over the years, I have found that players do have interesting and important things to say, which the fans would like to hear or read, but the managers and players are rapidly generating a secret society that we are all expected to pay homage to.

What a pity.

Irish Independent

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