The GAA has taken a bit of a kicking over the past few weeks. It could be argued that much of it was unjustified.
First to put the size 12 hobnails in was Jerry Kiernan. Speaking on radio, the Kerryman, no mean athlete in his day, a ninth-place finish in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic marathon in which John Treacy took the silver, being a particularly fine effort, was aggrieved that the government had allocated €900,000 towards improvements to the London Co Board’s Ruislip grounds.
Fine if he had left it at that, but Jerry made a quite extraordinary claim that Gaelic football wasn’t a “particularly skilful game”, and that “the standards to play it....there’s not an awful lot required”. This from a native of the county that gave us Mick O’Connell and Jack O’Shea, two of the finest exponents of the high catch. Then there was John Egan and Pat Spillane, who could solo as if the ball was glued to their foot and usually finish with a score. And what about Colm Cooper? Like Mikey Sheehy before him, the Gooch can score from the most difficult of angles, usually after having skilfully, yes skilfully, thrown his opponents off course like a hare chased by a greyhound.
Superb fitness made Seamus Moynihan one of the great all-rounders, but there was more than that in the Glenflesk man’s armoury – like the attribute Kiernan said was missing from the game.
If Jerry felt that the money allocated was too much, or should have gone to some other sport, athletics perhaps, he should have confined it to that and not target a game that requires much more than running around a field in circles.
The opposition to the GAA making football and hurling championship games available to Sky drew more stringent criticism than anything Kiernan could muster. Among the arguments in opposition to the Association going the pay-for-view route, was Joe Brolly’s, the Derryman claiming it was “damaging to the GAA ethos.” Joe’s an outspoken RTE pundit, but we’ll let that pass.
In defence, members of the Croke Park hierarchy said the decision to take the Murdoch corporation on board was to bring the games to a wider global audience. The deal is for three years.
There’s a familiar ring to this, and it goes back to the GAA making the momentous decision to allow rugby and soccer to be played in Croke Park. Okay, as was said here at the time, had the decision gone the other way, leaving the soccer and rugby teams with no alternative but to play their ‘home’ games in England or Wales, the GAA would have scored the most disastrous own-goal since the Colombian defender Escobar put the ball past his own goalie in the 1994 World Cup. The poor fella was shot dead on his return home.
But there was also the money involved, some millions swelling Croke Park coffers. The Sky deal may not be so lucrative, but it will still increase revenue.
Joe Brolly say the GAA doesn’t need the money. Maybe not to pay wages or keep Croke Park in good shape; but there are more and more clubs who need to be grant-aided, and others given loans. Even those opposed to the deal would say this is vital, money well spent.