Martin Breheny: The Leaving Cert for GAA fans
Do you think you can earn enough points to forge a career in our national games?
IF ever anything was guaranteed to bring an end to the extended winter, it was the approach of the Leaving and Junior Cert exams. Sure enough, all changed this week and thousands of students will go to their desks this morning while the sun beats down outside. Good luck to all of them – hopefully, the questions on areas they crammed in last night will bounce back at them off the exam papers.
Given the day that's in it, here's an exam special for students, practitioners and observers of GAA affairs.
MATHS (HIGHER LEVEL)
* Multiply all the high winning-margins (points) from the following provincial football games so far this year: 26 (Kerry v Waterford); 19 (Leitrim v New York); 18 (Cork v Limerick); 17 (Mayo v Galway and Kerry v Tipperary); 16 (Dublin v Westmeath); 11 (Westmeath v Carlow); 10 (Louth v Laois). Because of the unusually high figures involved, special calculators will be made available.
* The lucky Mullingar pair who won the Lotto recently scooped over €10m for a €4 outlay. Compile a championship accumulator which would yield the same amount (not that the bookies would pay out, mind you).
Example: Kildare to win Leinster SFC (4/1), Down to win Ulster SFC (7/1), Tyrone to win All-Ireland SFC (16/1); Clare to win Munster SHC (9/2), Cork to win All-Ireland SHC (16/1); Stephen O'Neill to be Footballer or the Year (40/1). Total return for €4 is over €10m.
MATHS (ORDINARY LEVEL)
* Calculate the total number of goals scored by the following 19 counties in 15hrs 10mins of football championship in recent weeks: Longford (0), Kildare (0), Westmeath (0), Limerick (0), Tipperary (0), New York (0), Galway (0), Sligo (0), Carlow (1), Laois (1), Louth (1), Wicklow (1),Offaly (1), Dublin (1), Waterford (1), Cavan (1), Armagh (1), Derry (1), London (1).
Clue: It's less than 12 and more than 10 and works out at a goal every 83 minutes, scarcely a monument to creative finishing.
* This is not a trick question, even if its basis seems pretty daft. Kerry played two Munster championship games in six days over the last two weekends; Leitrim have a 49-day wait between their opening Connacht game against New York on May 5 and the semi-final with London on June 23. How many weeks is that?
Clue: It's longer than it took to run off the last five rounds, plus the semi-finals, of the Allianz football Leagues in March-April, which were completed in six weeks.
* Write an essay on one of the following topics:
1 What happens when Kevin Walsh next meets Eamonn O'Hara.
2 How Twitter has brought intelligent insight to the GAA world...or maybe not.
3 Why old Hawk-Eye prefers ladies' tennis to hurling.
* Answer one of the following:
(a): Only a few players have been sent off in All-Ireland senior hurling finals in over 50 years, yet Carlow had three dismissed in three minutes against Laois last Sunday. Are Carlow such grievous sinners compared to the big shots who play in Croke Park on All-Ireland final/ semi-final day? Discuss the historical aspects of disciplinary practices during the championships (hurling and football), in particular, how it is that referees will wave yellow and red quite quickly in the early rounds, only to discover that the cards are locked in their pockets later on.
(b): List as many as possible of the 17 structural changes the All-Ireland Hurling Championship and NHL have undergone since 1997. Discuss why there has been so much tampering and speculate what happens next
Clue: more changes are likely.
* Draw a map of Ireland, showing all 32 counties. Make a case as to why, for All-Ireland football championship purposes, it makes sense to continue with the current division of counties in a 12-9-7-6 split (Connacht has two overseas guests) for the first phase of the competition, otherwise known as the provincial championships. Extra marks will be offered if you can bring any logic to the argument for retaining such a lop-sided system.
Note: don't spend too long in pursuit of the extra marks because it's well-nigh impossible.
* Cook up a story about how your dish for the following weekend will include various ingredients, only to make late changes just before serving. Mayo and Donegal (football) and Clare (hurling) all did it recent weeks.
Draw on examples from the growing number of GAA managers who believe it's the ultimate in culinary sophistication to have one menu on the window and a different one inside.
Offer an opinion why the restaurant owners (county boards and Croke Park) make no effort to clamp down on the public-conning scheme.
* Prepare a formula for the creation of a new hurling ball that doesn't travel the length of the pitch with one puck. You will become the patron saint of midfielders who have to wander a long way from home for action. Otherwise, they watch the ball soar high above them all the time.
Show examples of how the appliance of science improves a player's kicking (football), and striking (hurling) skills or other basics either, some of which appear to be neglected. If none are readily available, make them up – everyone else does.
* Following the success of 'Jimmy's Winning Matches', write a song for this year's All-Ireland winners. What's that? You don't know who they will be? Don't worry. Write it anyway and fill in the lyrics afterwards to suit whoever is involved.
If you've watched some of 'The Sunday Game' analysts, you will know exactly how the art of fitting a pre-planned phrase into a particular situation works. Cook it privately mid-week, re-heat it for the public at the weekend.
* Calculate how much it costs to train inter-county teams for the championship when, in the case of eight squads, they are guaranteed only two games, while a further eight are guaranteed only three games between April and the end of the season. Devise a more cost-effective system (this should take no longer than five minutes).
* Present a fixtures structure that doesn't cram so much action into the first four months of the year (10 minutes allowed for this one).
* Analyse the business sense in redeveloping Pairc Ui Chaoimh to a capacity of 40,000+ when there are already three other grounds in Munster which can hold all the major games.
* Draw a picture of Cork officials' faces if they were told that there would be no central grants available for redeveloping Pairc Ui Chaoimh to such a large capacity when it's required so infrequently.
* Do you think it's wise, necessary or practical to have a rule demanding the use of the Irish language in so many official forms relating to GAA affairs? Sin ceist eile!