Monday 17 December 2018

The GAA need to start practising what they're preaching - Glynn

Former Wicklow star unhappy that focus is switching to finance ahead of mammoth task against the Dubs

Leighton Glynn. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Leighton Glynn. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Anyone with an intimate knowledge of Wicklow club football will tell you that he's still the most feared footballer in the county and when you see Leighton Glynn patrol the Garden sideline as coach, it's easy to see why.

Very little has changed since Glynn put inter-county football aside four years ago and the Wicklow legend is still fighting fit. As recently as last autumn he was in the headlines again after his 20th county title win.

Just weeks later he played his usually pivotal part with Rathnew as Dublin superpower St Vincent's left Aughrim with their tails between their legs in a seismic Leinster Club SFC shock, but it shouldn't have been a surprise.

Between club, county and country, there's very little Glynn hasn't accomplished, even playing International Rules before going on to represent his club (Glenealy in hurling, Rathnew in football) in both codes on a remarkable weekend eight years ago.

Given their close proximity along the east coast, it's hard to believe he never faced Dublin in league or championship with only the odd O'Byrne Cup fixture to pit his wits against their much-vaunted neighbours.

Tomorrow's Leinster SFC quarter-final meeting - made possible by Wicklow's extra-time defeat of Offaly - marks their first championship clash in 28 years but the gulf in class and standards is staggering.

Given Wicklow were rooted to the bottom of Division 4 this year - statistically the worst team in the country - while the all-conquering Dubs left Croke Park with yet another national title, they operate at completely different ends of the food chain.

While its capacity may not let as many bodies through the turnstiles as O'Moore Park in Portlaoise, the growing chasm between the counties makes it all the more astounding that Aughrim was not accommodated to host the landmark tie.

It still sticks in Glynn's craw as he feels the GAA missed the boat again - highlighting a symptomatic change where financial gains take precedence over common sense.

"The GAA certainly missed a trick, if they weren't so commercially-driven these days, they might have looked closely at this and realised that it would mean more to Wicklow football than any purse that they could make," the former All-Star nominee says.

"There would be Wicklow kids turning up, fair enough the majority would be there to see the All-Ireland champions, but it would be in their head forever coming to Aughrim and they might think, 'One day I could play for Wicklow'.

"It's just a commercially-driven organisation at the minute and you'd like to see that change. An amateur organisation that's supposed to be all about inclusion and equality, they should act on these opportunities rather than going down the predictable money route. It's a shame.

"As a player you're wrapped up in it and you just go, 'Ah forget about that, we're preparing for a game' but when you're outside looking in you'd be baffled at some of the decisions. We could have had the Harlem Globetrotters coming to town like.

"That would have been priceless. You can't preach an amateur ethos and inclusion and equality and then be so commercially-driven, it's a total contradiction of what you're supposed to be, you have to practise what you preach."

Glynn hasn't pulled his punches in the past on the need for a second-tier championship and while their first Leinster SFC victory in five years has thrown up their dream date with the Dubs, who are 1/500 to prevail, it doesn't blur reality.

"What would be wrong with having your provincial championship and then moving into an All-Ireland 'A' series for the winning teams while the losing sides and the next tier of teams play the All-Ireland 'B' championship? Just keep an importance on it," Glynn says.

"It can't be a championship that you just name, it needs to be significant. The top two teams should automatically be in the 'A' the following year and the final could be played before the All-Ireland decider, why not play it in Croke Park?

"Fair enough, tickets and things will come into it but that's where the equality of the organisation should come into it, why should Wicklow be treated any different to Dublin? It may be a different level but we're still in the same organisation."

When the initial call came from Wicklow boss John Evans to possibly return in a playing capacity, there were some conversations but the 36-year-old knocked it on the head pretty quickly as his time in the blue and gold had passed.

He was keen to play a part, however, and while he acknowledges that "only a mad man would think we're going to beat Dublin", their focus is on developing this young crop and hopefully replicating the success they had previously under another Kerryman, the legendary Mick O'Dwyer.

Glynn has been impressed with how Evans - also boss of the U-20 side - has gone all-in with Wicklow and tomorrow's result will not cloud their long-term project, although his is expecting a positive reaction despite what the scoreboard might say.

"There's no other challenge like it. Every player should be looking at this as a massive opportunity to pit yourselves against probably one of the best teams of all time and when it comes to do that, you find more in yourself," he says.

"Hopefully the lads will rise to the occasion and give it everything. It's great, they have nothing to lose. Win, lose or draw we have at least another game to prepare for whether it's a Qualifier or a Leinster semi-final.

"That's a solid improvement. It tells us there's something to work with and no shortage of quality."

Irish Independent

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