PRIOR to engaging the quill for this week’s offerings, I should reflect on the perilous state in which this great country of ours finds itself.
Top of the European league of the number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 head of population.
No, don’t worry, we are not going to present you with another set of statistics to add to the quorum that has caused the morale of the citizens to head south at a serious pace of knots.
When you come across stories of people being hungry for air, it takes a fair leap into the surreal to be concerned about a beach party.
Two weeks ago, when this columnist was requested to create a new year’s wish list, there was only one, that made the cut: “Lessons learned in 2020 wouldn’t be forgotten.” In keeping with the narrow confines of our existence, I must confess that the club versus inter-county debate was the main reason for the above demand.
For quite a while, in the GAA world, the growing dominance of the inter-county scene driven by the singled minded ethos of many managers coupled with the reluctance of the suits to get involved had the effect of moving the club scene to extinction status.
Then coronavirus came a calling and hey presto the club practitioners obtained a fair and equitable slice of the fixtures calendar pie. Not alone that, but, it provided a blueprint if the relevant partners were sincere as to the way forward.
The one aspect, that the virus wasn’t able to address was which would come first, the club or the county.
Those who make up the club scene (by the way the vast majority) have concerns that when the inter-county league and championships is complete, the returning club player may have given his or her all.
However, the Croke Park government made some wee effort to allay those fears by granting a close season of sorts.
No inter-county training until January 15 (roughly the same date when farmers can begin applying slurry to the land) which was moved to January 31, due to our great country heading to the top of the aforementioned European Covid-19 league table.
By the way, if any of the above is non-factual or lacks clarity, please let us know.
Over a period of many years, inter-county management teams found ways of bending, ignoring and twisting GAA guidelines; it appears to be part of their DNA.
In 2018, the GAA issued a directive precluding inter-county teams from embarking on training weekends outside a 10-day period prior to a championship game.
This was an effort, to ensure, that clubs could have their players for the famous club month of April. A number of counties decided that such a directive wasn’t meant for them and headed for the sun.
Was the management of these county teams overly concerned about club teams? Answers on a small postcard please!
The GAA made an effort to impose sanctions but again some of the offending counties wriggled their way out of it.
If memory serves me correctly the Dublin footballers went on a historical trip. The Wexford hurlers with poor Dave Fitz in charge also escaped censure as their trip was for recreational and bonding purposes.
The Armagh footballers, together with the hurlers of Laois and Waterford weren’t quite as persuasive in the excuse department, they probably told the truth.
Their price for their honesty was that for one league match in 2019, they would lose home advantage.
But dear readers that was then. Now in the aftermath of lessons delivered by muinteoir coronavirus, surely out of respect for GAA directives and more importantly, in this case, respect for the club modicum of the fixtures calendar, nothing of the above would be countenanced.
God, and I request, was it abject stupidity or innocence but was I so wrong.
The first evidence of disrespect arrived via social media, informing us that the PSNI arrived upon the Down football team undergoing a bonding/training session at Abbey CBS.
This missive was quickly followed by information that the session was not actually in breach of government guidelines in relation to Covid-19, so what?
It was in breach of GAA guidelines. A contributor made a comment that a two-point league deduction should be slapped on the Mourne men immediately. I wondered, was it enough?
Next and quite honestly, I couldn’t believe it when evidence of the Cork senior football team participating in a training/bonding session at an east Cork beach was brought to our attention.
Sweet Lord what was the need, and what made it more difficult to take in, was the fact that both Cork hurling and football teams were so respectful of the 2020 club championships.
Were counties other than Cork and Down breaking the GAA guidelines?
I don’t know.
Some Smart Alec suggested that for the two counties involved, a bonding session at Knock shrine might be more appropriate.
If you detach yourself from the seriousness of the infringement, and again I wish to emphasise the disrespect it showed to the GAA guidelines, you could add it to the plethora of stories that have grown up about GAA teams organising training/bonding sessions on Cork beaches particularly the west Cork ones.
Before Covid-19, during the month of January, there was almost the need to draw up a timetable to prevent overbooking. Indeed there was one or two instances where rivals attended at the same time slot which led to events that almost required the intervention of the local law enforcement agents.
About 10 years ago one dual club used the facilities to stage the main part of the preseason training and bonding.
To add another component, the players and members of the backroom staff would adjourn to a local hotel for a full Irish. The club picked up the tab but there was an expectancy, that all present would purchase at least one club lotto ticket costing €1.50.
I am reliably informed that a major source of entertainment — and dare I say bonding — grew up around the fact that one member wouldn’t buy the aforementioned lotto ticket.
Why go to the football stronghold of east Cork to embark on this activity? Was it to avoid detection?
There is no end of evidence to suggest that Gaelic football has yet to capture the imagination of the Imokilly division.
A few years ago yours truly was a passenger in a car travelling to commentate on a Munster U21 football championship match in Tralee.
During the journey one of the other occupants received a call from a high ranking east Cork GAA official on some GAA related matter, but it was the first he heard of the U21 championship match in which his county was a participant.
Can we begin again, and express the wish that inter-county management teams would realise that we are all in this together?
The day for inter-county management teams going on a solo run either in the sun or the sand is at an end.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @paudiep