I have been critical many times in the past of those who have decided that the paying public in Croke Park cannot be trusted with replays on the big screen of controversial (and not so controversial) incidents. At the slightest hint of danger, the screens flash to an advertisement. Censorship GAA style. Meanwhile, over in Lansdowne Road, all acts of foul play are replayed over and over again without any rioting in the streets.
I was at the Dublin-Kerry match in the first round of the Allianz League and, to my surprise, several incidents were replayed which normally would have been dispatched to the bin.
Perhaps the censor was on a night off, but this was a welcome development because a GAA audience is just as mature as any other. In the past the official line was that it might show a referee in a bad light for getting a decision wrong, well so be it. No referee has been shot at dawn for getting something wrong, even if many were tempted. People move on and I hope that Glasnost, the Russian word for openness and transparency, has hit the GAA.
There's nothing worse than sitting at a match in Croke Park and not being able to see a replay of an incident, and not knowing what happened until later when you get to see it on TV. So hopefully the GAA propaganda department, which can be very touchy about criticism, realises that a few shouts from disgruntled supporters is not the end of the world. Show everything that happens - warts and all.
When it was decided to make David Clifford the captain of Kerry there was a lot of debate about whether he was up to the job, or if it is asking too much of a very young man. The first three league games seem to indicate that the leadership role has had no effect on his individual game. That, however, is not the point.
The Kerry system of having the county champions nominating the captain is out-dated and serves no purpose, even if it was retained by delegates in a recent vote. This method has reduced the role, at least occasionally, to a glorified coin tosser and there have been numerous times in the past when the captain was on and off the team or sometimes just an unsuitable player for the role. Of course it also means that a player who comes from a poor club whose divisional side does not win the championship can never be captain of Kerry. It is a most unfair system.
A good captain is a leader, sometimes by word but even better by deed. He should command respect by force of personality and not by a title thrust upon him. I played under great captains who lifted the Sam Maguire, Mick Lyons and Joe Cassells. They did not say much as they did their talking on the field, but when they did speak we all listened and followed. So the captain is normally a man of maturity, even if Michael Murphy was very young when successfully taking over Donegal.
Clifford may be all these things and more, but the point is he should have been chosen by the team management as the leader of the players. Nobody knows from the outside what effect the captaincy is having on Clifford. Perhaps it is elevating him to even greater displays, maybe he would have been picked anyway by the management and have the overwhelming support of the players. We just don't know. All we can be sure of is that if it is putting extra pressure on him it is certainly not showing. Again, not the point.
Some might think the recent fixtures task force report was the work of a group which had an impossible task, but I am one of the minority who thinks that putting order on fixtures is relatively straightforward. And for sure, there should be no games at this time of year, when weather dictates small crowds and training must be purgatory for players. So a switch to later dates has benefits all round.
Nobody in the GAA ever takes responsibility for doing stupid things, but putting the under 20 football championship into February must rank with the most bizarrely stupid decisions ever made. Could somebody put their hand up for this and say they got it wrong? We won't hold our breath on that one.
Next Saturday, a raft of motions from the fixtures review task force come before Congress at Croke Park. Most GAA people will never read them and may only realise their consequences when implemented. At this stage, if there was a motion to scrap all county football I might even support it as it has become a monster which devours huge revenue and tramples over schools, club and third-level fixtures.
One of the motions which comes before Congress next Saturday deals with rescheduling second-level school fixtures. I know something about this area as this is the 41st year that I have managed a team in this sector. What is being proposed for the post-primary schools sector defies all logic. They are proposing that all competitions should finish in January. The rationale is that because the under 20 competition has been moved to February, then the All-Ireland finals at second level should be in January so as not to interfere with another county competition.
It is hard to credit that any committee would put forward a proposal that is so elitist. The fact that the under 20 championship is completely misplaced in February seems to have been lost on this group. Their answer is to move everything else to suit the under 20, which is being treated as a Mickey Mouse competition by the GAA itself. If they were taking it seriously it would not be shoehorned into a month with all the serious football.
If the All-Ireland schools finals are played in January, then the provincial finals would have to be in December, and most schools would have no senior football after November.
There are plenty of problems in schools football in terms of fixtures and competition structures, but this proposal is a sledgehammer which could destroy football in schools. There would be almost no football after Christmas and the additional proposal is that there would be no All-Ireland competitions in C and D grades. More trampling on the weak. Are small schools not entitled to their big day out?
This proposal is the ultimate in elitism. Imagine shafting every school in the country to protect the under 20 grade, which is a complete shambles of a competition as it expects players to be part of third-level sides, schools and county senior football at the same time.
Initially, players were supposed to give first allegiance to schools over under 20. Then a derogation was introduced as schools football at senior level is now under 19 (schools should not be under 19 either, but that's another argument) and so there was a crossover of players with the under 20 grade. This derogation allowed counties appeal to have schools players play under 20, even when their school was still involved in the championship. It became like the queue at the tote window after the favourite wins the last race on the card, a free-for-all. So players and schools suffer. What an illogical mess.
Hopefully next Saturday morning delegates will be able to see the wood for the trees. Do all the silly things you want, but at least protect the schools.
Sunday Indo Sport