REMEMBER that famous line from George Orwell’s novella ‘Animal Farm’? 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.'
It came back to me after I studied the GAA’s revised calendar of fixtures for county football.
It would be hypocritical if I didn’t acknowledge that the plan favours Kerry ahead of three of the other main challengers for Dublin’s title – Donegal, Tyrone and Mayo.
The decision to play the final two rounds of the League before the commencement of the provincial championships has compounded the already in-built fact Kerry are the only Division 1 team in Munster.
Safe from relegation, Kerry’s two outstanding League games against Monaghan and Donegal are meaningless – for the Kingdom anyway.
They are set to have three weeks of uninterrupted preparation for those matches, followed by a two-week gap to their Munster semi-final showdown against Cork. And, unlike any of the other provincial schedules, Kerry would then enjoy another two-week gap until the Munster final.
In contrast, Donegal, Tyrone and Mayo face virtually impossible schedules.
None of them are safe from relegation so they have no option but to go full blast in their remaining games. So Donegal face Tyrone (home) and Kerry (away) before a crunch Ulster quarter-final showdown against Tyrone.
And if they were to retain their Ulster title, they will have played five matches (two League and three Championship) in the space of six weeks.
Tyrone, who face Donegal (a) and Mayo (h) in the League, have the same schedule.
Meanwhile, Mayo – who have only three League points – need results against Galway (a) and Tyrone (a) to stay in Division 1. And if they are to win the Connacht Championship, they will have to win three games on as many weekends.
So to stay in the hunt for Sam they will have five games on five successive weekends as could Roscommon, if their Championship match against London goes ahead.
But Cavan and Monaghan have really drawn the short straw, as they meet in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship. So if either was to reach the Ulster final, it would be their sixth game in as many weekends.
And neither can afford to take their foot off the pedal in their two League outings.
Monaghan need something from their games against Kerry and Meath to stay in Division 1, while Cavan have to win against Armagh and Roscommon to secure promotion from Division 2.
Meanwhile, the county-versus-club war rumbles on in the background.
I was amused by the recent demand from the GPA to have the insurance cover for inter-county players recommence before the official restart of county training on September 14.
Now, if they were really interested in the welfare of all their players, why didn’t they get every member to sign a pledge not to train with their county squads until their club exited the championship?
This would show real leadership, rather than pandering to the whims of county managers and their elite players.
Meanwhile, where does the famous manager’s charter – governing the relationship between county boards and team managers, introduced on foot of a motion passed at a special Congress in 2008 – sit?
The charter is supposed to be signed by county team managers, agreeing to abide by the rules of the county board, and lodged with Croke Park before the end of January each year.
The cynic in me suggests that it should be filed under fiction, because what’s in there is akin to a Hans Christan Anderson fairy tale.
Finally, lest we forget the virus hasn’t gone away. What happens if NPHET orders a lockdown in a county halfway through the championship season?
Could we have a repeat of what transpired in 1941, when Tipperary and Kilkenny were excluded from the All-Ireland hurling championship due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease?
I wouldn’t rule something similar happening this year.
Why the GAA needs an inter-county commissioner
THE best way to explain Croke Park’s belated attempt at halting illegal county training is to compare it to a small village with two pubs.
One pub obeys the law, whereas the other does after hours. This is common knowledge.
But instead of doing their job, the gardaí ask the law-abiding publican to write a letter of complaint about his rival. Of course, such an idea is farcical. But
this is precisely what Croke Park are asking clubs to do.
They’re expected to send a signed letter on club notepaper informing their county board that their player(s) are not available to train due to county commitments.
There is no more reviled figure in Irish history than the ‘informer’. For that reason alone this initiative is not going
Furthermore, the majority of GAA members ‘wear’ the county jersey. So they will not do anything to undermine the county’s chances of winning the All-Ireland.
Finally, they are not going to ‘snitch’ on their own club players, even if they are annoyed.
County board officials and team managers have long memories and can be vindictive.
So, while I welcome Croke Park’s U-turn, remember just a week ago that GAA president John Horan suggested there would be no sanctions – the chances of any county board chairman being suspended for breaches of the rules are somewhere between slim and nil.
Self-regulation rarely works in any aspect of Irish life.
My information is that a majority of counties are at least breaking the spirit of the training ban.
I’m told one county squad played basketball last weekend.
All this leads back to a suggestion I’ve made many times in these pages. The GAA must appoint an inter-county commissioner to enforce the rules.