PROs by name, but unpaid by nature

Let's hear it for the volunteers who keep the whole GAA show going
PROs by name, but unpaid by nature

Outgoing Cork Cork County Board PRO Joseph Blake at the 2019 annual convention. Picture: Jim Coughlan

José Mourinho is in the headlines again though, as has become the norm over the past half-decade, it’s for what he said rather than his achievements as a football manager.

Having taken over at Roma in the summer, he has followed the trend of his stints at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur by beginning encouragingly only for things to go south fairly quickly, with Saturday bringing a 3-0 home loss to Internazionale. In the press conference afterwards, he took exception to one journalist’s question and said, “Your job is a lot easier than ours which is why we earn a lot more than you.”

To be fair to the Portuguese, he certainly won’t have gone hungry despite the repeated failures of the recent past and there are quite a few job-holders that can say they earn more than journalists.

However, it’s worth remembering that most of the GAA officials we deal with and pester throughout the year are carrying out their roles on a voluntary basis. Generally, the point-person is the county PRO and there has been a change in that regard since Saturday night’s annual county convention.

With his three-year term up, Adrigole’s Joseph Blake has departed and he does so with the best wishes of the media corps as he was always willing and helpful, often going beyond the call of duty in chasing a query. It says much about his commitment to the GAA that he isn’t putting his feet up and will jointly hold the roles of Adrigole PRO and Beara secretary during the coming year.

The PRO’s job is essentially a reactive one, sitting on the volcano before a story breaks and then trying to field all manner of questions afterwards. There’s certainly no facility to be off-duty and it really is a case of having two jobs – your normal one for which you receive remuneration and your county board one that you’re doing for the love of it.

Joseph’s successor is Francis Kenneally of Kanturk and we look forward to establishing a good working relationship with him, while it would be remiss not to mention Cian O’Brien, who lost out to Francis in the election. For almost a decade, Cian has been a tireless worker in the background, helping Cork GAA to move with the digital times.

To Joseph, Francis, Cian and all of the other volunteers that keep the GAA engine oiled, we give our thanks.

While referees aren’t volunteers, they aren’t in it to earn untold riches and, looked at rationally, there are more disincentives to giving it a try than there are incentives. This was something noted by Cork secretary Kevin O’Donovan in his report to Congress.

“A clear crisis now facing the association is the shortage of referees,” he wrote.

“While there remains a band of outstanding officials operating across the county, it is clear that the numbers are not increasing in line with the number of games now being played at all levels. An increased focus will be required in all units on the recruitment and retention of

referees and a zero-tolerance approach to abuse of officials must be adhered to.

“Indeed, the now seemingly automatic reflex to appeal almost any proposed penalty is most disappointing. Clubs have a responsibility here to discourage those that they must know to be guilty from submitting frivolous appeals and thus undermining the credibility of referees and their reports.”

Chairperson Marc Sheehan touched on that in his speech too, outlining how “the attraction, retention, recruitment and training of referees has become a critical issue for all of the association, particularly in this county.”

In an interview for the county senior football final programme, Premier SFC decider referee David Murnane of Macroom jokingly revealed the best advice he had been given, but also make a serious point.

“John Motherway said at the foundation course to park the car near the gate, facing home!” he laughed.

“Michael Keane, the former referees’ administrator for the county board, rang me when I was starting out. He’d be a great man to give fellas advice and he said to ignore the sidelines and to focus on the game and the players, protect the players and apply the rules, not to worry about outsiders.

“One thing I’ve definitely noticed in the last few years is that the sidelines are getting better, but outside the wire is tougher with Twitter and social media and all of that.”

It’s not an original saying but it’s no less true that, without referees, there are no games. We all have to be a bit more understanding that they are human beings, too.

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