Saturday 24 March 2018

Lions roam free - unlike GAA lads

Lions head coach Warren Gatland Photo: PA
Lions head coach Warren Gatland Photo: PA

GAA players of all grades from humble junior to elite inter-county would have felt deep pangs of envy if they read comments from Warren Gatland on how he expected the Lions rugby squad to behave during the summer tour to New Zealand.

Even lower-ranked GAA club players are expected to live monastic lives on a whole range of fronts, but most especially when it comes to drinking. A sneaky pint or two is ordered off limits for long periods, all in the name of making the sacrifices allegedly required in pursuit of some title or other.

As for county players, they can't even be seen on the same street as a pub, once they submit themselves to the tenets (tyranny?) of unyielding regimes.

In those circumstances, GAA players will, no doubt, be surprised to hear that Gatland plans to allow the Lions rugby royalty plenty of time in New Zealand's bars. He tried it with the Welsh squad in the past and apparently all went well.

After night games, he freed up the players to go on the town 'for a couple of beers', provided they were back at the hotel by 1am. He had no problems if the session continued there and the same will apply with the Lions.

"As long as you're responsible, I think it will be good to go out and enjoy some fans' company. It's good if players are accessible and engage with fans," said Gatland.

What? Players mixing with supporters after games? What an alien concept, certainly in the modern GAA.

It used to happen but then along came micro-management, which demands absolute control of every minute detail.

In a lot of cases it makes for a joyless existence but who's to challenge the unforgiving regimes? Dissenting voices would find themselves among the fans very quickly.

Irish Independent

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