Wednesday 23 October 2019

No game and more journalists than players on All-Star trip to Philadelphia

Alan Milton, the GAA’s Director of Communications. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Alan Milton, the GAA’s Director of Communications. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

When the All-Star footballers of 2017/2018 depart for Philadelphia from Dublin Airport this morning they will do so with more journalists on board than players.

For the first time in the history of the All-Star tour, there will be a team of journalists (15) but only 14 inter-county players as they make their way across the Atlantic Ocean before returning home next Wednesday morning.

Since the All-Star trip was resumed in 2001, there has been a game or exhibition on each of the tours - which alternate between football and hurling every second year - but there is a change of tack this year as focus shifts to coaching underage players in the locality.

Given the nature and timing of the holiday in the off-seasons, players rightly take full advantage of letting their hair down before the new season commences and this has led to many of the recent All-Star games lacking in quality, with little in the way of competition between the two sides.

The GAA has taken the decision to go in "a different direction" but the absence of even an exhibition game eliminates the needs for replacements, thus reducing the travelling party.

Competitive

GAA Director of Communications Alan Milton outlined how they felt a change of focus was needed: "We just took a different direction, we put the focus on coaching the local kids this year.

"We decided there was more merit in it, as the scorelines from previous years had suggested that whatever competitive streak that was in it previously was no longer there," Milton said.

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"So in terms of an exhibition for people, we felt the time of the players would be better used trying to promote the games to youngster and there'll be over 110 kids in the Limerick Field Complex outside Philadephia on Saturday morning.

"We'll be promoting hurling and football and we hope maybe Con O'Callaghan might share some of his hurling expertise with the rest of the All-Star footballers. Every player travelling on the trip is an All-Star so it should be a positive development."

Given the advent of new ventures like the Wild Geese Trophy in Sydney and Fenway Hurling Classic in Boston earlier this month, some question marks hang over the future of the PwC sponsored tour.

With many inter-county squads already back training at this stage of the year and pre-season competitions starting in early January, it remains to be seen whether the All-Stars tour will stay in situ or bite the dust.

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