Wednesday 21 February 2018

Paul Galvin: Bling-up the GAA

Paul Galvin

It's not what die-hards meant by silverware, but jewellery for football fans might just herald a new beginning, writes Paul Galvin

I think the GAA is suffering from a mid-life crisis. Torn between its older companion Amateurism and its younger, richer, seductive lover Professionalism, its behaviour has become more and more erratic.

It's confused about what it wants.

Ireland's foremost cultural bastion of conservatism is now wearing new clothes, driving fast cars and dripping in new jewellery. Yes, jewellery in the GAA!

It's about time she let her hair down. Bravo for that.

Thanks to a collaboration with TJH, a Dublin-based jewellery manufacturer that makes John Rocha jewellery, the GAA now offers supporters the world over an opportunity to love their county in a less obvious way than the usual county jerseys.

Not that there's anything wrong with wearing the county jersey. They might be dubious in a fashion sense, but at least now you can get them fitted.

The Love Your County sterling-silver, stainless-steel and silver-plated jewellery collection includes miniature Sam Maguire and Liam McCarthy replicas that can be worn on chains and bracelets, as well as pendants, charms and dog tags featuring jerseys, footballs, football boots and hurleys.

All good fun, and it's great to see the association broaden its horizons. This will appeal to kids and especially the expat market. Though I doubt the expats will ever pack up the county jersey come championship Sunday.

Nearly two million people attended GAA games in Ireland last year and the same number watched games on TV.

It's not surprising then that more and more savvy businesses see opportunities in one of the few growth industries in Ireland in recent years.

More and more revenue is being generated. And more and more we hear about the importance of remaining amateur. No wonder the GAA is confused. But I digress -- as I do.

Now there are leather bracelets sporting your county's colours that cater for the teenage market. I used to wear leather bracelets in my teens.

The more style conscious are catered for, too. Tie clips are included in the collection, which I'm a big fan of, as well as cuff-links. Perfect for the smart corporate-type business man who frequents Croke Park these days.

Whoever said progress was a slow process wasn't looking at the committee boys who agreed to this novel venture. It seems we've moved on to a new modern era where it's okay to mention the GAA and jewellery in the same breath. What a seismic shift that is.

Of course, the problem with such open mindedness is that it can raise all sorts of other issues. Where does this newfound liberalism end?

More importantly, where does it leave the traditional GAA die-hard? I can already hear the die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool, dying-to- complain traditionalists in dusty meeting rooms all over the country clearing their throats.

"Lads, the day we accept jewellery into the association is the day we die. We've already accepted the rugby, the soccer, the armed forces, the Queen, those two young fellas with the funny hair..."

"They're called Jedward," offers up the youngest die-hard at the back of the room.

The chairman of the die-hards stares disapprovingly at the youngest die-hard before continuing his call to arms: "We've already accepted Jedward into Croke Park. Now lads, between the Queen and Jedward, that's enough jewellery in the GAA."

And he might be right too. Jewellery today, but tomorrow could herald the opening of floodgates. What's next? GAA players admitting they're into fashion? Players wearing jewellery?

Worse still, the madness could spread to officials. Referees wearing earrings instead of earpieces? Tossing Love Your County charms instead of coins?

Next thing, we'll have managers wearing suits on the sideline.

The committee boys argue for three hours before they realise they're all on the same side. A show of hands sees a vote of no confidence in jewellery in the GAA carried.

Now the chairman of the die-hards comes into his own. His duty, after arguing and voting on things, is to attend county board meetings where he can vote at county level.

It is here he hears from the County Board Chairman that Croke Park and the GAA are behind the jewellery idea and that the jewellery will go on sale in stores nationwide from April.

He goes back to his club with a heavy heart. He breaks the news to the other die-hards at a meeting in the clubhouse. A little piece of each die-hard dies. Jewellery in the GAA.

The end could well be nigh. Or maybe it's just the beginning.

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