In 1925, following years of Civil war and emigration upheaval, the parish teams of Corofin and Ballyclare in North Galway merged to form the modern day club of the all-conquering All-Ireland champions.
In what was a period of extended turmoil across the country, as a result of the World War, Civil War and mass emigration. However, the GAA (clubs and county teams) endured, and remarkably the All-Ireland Championships continued to be played. If they could survive all of that, can they survive this pandemic? That is the question starting to being asked now.
Aside from any public health restrictions, commentary is now focusing on the financial merits of playing the inter-county championships for some counties. With some questioning as to whether the inter-county championships should be played at all. To be honest I am struggling with most of the logic being rolled out.
Since when did playing inter-county championships become solely a financial decision? Since when has the financial health of a county board, good bad or indifferent become the determining factor for the participation of a team in the championship?
Never in my recollection.
Numerous county boards have been swamped by debt in recent years, yet never was it suggested that the inter-county team should be effectively disbanded to manage costs, albeit on a temporary basis. So why now?
Strange times yes, but not strange enough to utterly compromise the core values of the association that centre around games participation and amateurism. An association that 'We all belong' irrespective of your financial standing.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the feelgood factor I had running on to the field for our first championship encounter. Unfortunately, those early moments have been as good as they have got, with only a draw from our opening three games to show for our efforts so far.
Last weekend I had to sit outside the fence for our third game, having seen red the previous week. A mis-timed shoulder charge earned me an early shower that evening, adding further ignominy to the club's already dwindling prospects.
So when people question whether games in front of limited crowds have the same value as before, all I can say is that the defeats and subsequent post-mortems are as torturous as ever. Sadly as of yet I can't say whether the victories taste as sweet. I have no doubt they do, and will hopefully be able to testify as such before the year is out.
My point is that these games, albeit in constrained circumstances, still matter as much as ever. Club championship victories in the coming weeks will be cherished as much as any before. Even more so I would argue, considering the circumstances. Final defeats, as they have always done, will still cast a cloud of melancholy over the winter for those so near yet so far. Thus, it will be the same for the inter-county championships.
When did we start looking at inter-county teams as some sort of a struggling SME, that has to guarantee a return on investment, otherwise the board will let it go to the wall? That is a very dangerous precedent to consider setting, and where does it stop? Every year many clubs and counties have limited prospects, yet we never countenance not putting teams forward.
First and foremost, the GAA is a games-led association. Without games, we are nothing. Both club and county. The All-Ireland Championships have a longer tradition than most of the clubs in this country, even that of Corofin, the most successful club in its history. If the clubs are the life blood of the association, then inter-county games are its vital organs.
'Reeling in the Years 2020', will prove to be unique in many ways in years to come, but it can't be for the absence of All-Ireland winners.
In terms of the understandable financial concerns of county boards, due to the absence of gate receipts, solutions to the current predicament must and can be found. Again I reiterate, the starting point is that the show goes on, come hell or high water, and the challenge is to identify what is needed to make this happen. Any alternative should not even be on the table for discussion.
Exorbitant team expenses can be slashed for starters. With a positive wind in their sales, the GPA should follow up their recently well received progressive fixtures proposal, with emergency measures on how player expenses can be temporarily reduced for this year's shortened season. Hard and frank discussions need to be had with those amongst any of the management team who up to now have had the hand out. 'If you want a job next year, you can give us the next eight weeks for free', or something to that effect should have the desired result. Putting it simply, everyone has to shoulder some of this burden to make the games happen.
In terms of income, the GAA have a rightful claim to, on top of what was already awarded at the beginning of the pandemic, some additional emergency state funding to help plug the financial gap for the suffering county boards. How many millions have the GAA across its various units contributed to the state in recent months on the back of fundraising efforts? What has been the social value of getting games back playing in a safe environment for hundreds and thousands of kids and adults.
In the same way that the government are trying to avoid the long-term consequences of austerity by not immediately cutting costs to balance public finances, the GAA must be wary of the potential long-term implications of not maintaining the integrity of our premier competitions, just for a short-term reprieve.
On the back of what the association has done in the midst of the pandemic to date, it is entirely reasonable to look for support from the government to offset the considerable financial losses incurred, and ensure our marquee competitions are played to their fullest.
County boards will have to strike a balance between cutting their cloth to fit, with lobbying for every available avenue to supplement lost income. Find a way, but with a starting point that under no uncertain terms will we allow money, above whatever else, be the sole reason for a team not being entered into this year's championship.
It is important to point out that all of this is predicated on the basis that public health conditions permit the playing of our championship in some shape or another. Even if that means behind closed doors.
As an association we have done remarkably well to operate within the confines of the guidelines, and continue to meet the needs of the club members, players and supporters, in a safe and enjoyable environment.
Our attention must turn to doing whatever is needed to ensure all counties participate in this year's championship, and decisions will need to be made soon, therefor solutions must be sought. As they have done without fail since 1889, our All-Ireland championships have been completed through the ravages of wars, recessions and immigration. In what remains of this pandemic ridden 2020, as before, they simply must endure!