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Topics - caprea

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General discussion / The ulster rugby trial
« on: February 01, 2018, 11:45:56 PM »
It was hijacking the rugby thread...

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GAA Discussion / the future of the Intercounty game
« on: October 24, 2017, 08:15:01 PM »
wrote up something for my blog at https://wordpress.com/post/veryintobloggingveryintonewmedia.wordpress.com/74
 
Feedback, criticism welcome...
 
The purpose of this blog is to take stock of where the GAA has come from, where it is and where it is going and the reasons for each. Ultimately I see GAA as becoming more and more like every other sport that is professional. It is really a companion piece to a blog i have done previously: https://veryintobloggingveryintonewmedia.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/gaelic-football-identifying-addressing-the-real-problems .
What I see the GAA have presently is a product that is high-end entertainment at the elite of the elite level. At this level the sport is gaining appeal. The flip side is that where once the sport was appealing to a wider spread of counties now it is badly losing that appeal. The feeling of hope they once had of been able to upset the odds against more fancied teams has long since given way to an acceptance that they are there to make up the numbers. How the GAA should deal with this polarization of the intercounty food-chain and how they actually will is the interesting thing.
 
There has to be a realization from the GAA that the current state of play is unsustainable. Counties left in Dublin's wake will lose interest and this will eat into the GAA's bottom line as attendances drop. Even Dublin's fans will disappear until the semi final stage. Mayo are saving the GAA a lot of tougher questions right now by providing fantastic spectacles in all their games but particularly in their battles with the Dubs. But how long can they keep it going? Personally i would say Mayo might have one more year in them and that's dependent on been lucky with injuries which they have been incredibly lucky with ever since Andy Moran done his cruciate in the quarter final in 2012. Ideally the GAA need Mayo to finally lay the '51 curse to bed next year.
 
Anyone who honestly believes that 5 or 6 counties will catch up Dublin over the next 5 years and restore the normal order of what we expect is ..whatever the name for the exact opposite of a doom merchant. There is talk that funds need to be redistributed from Dublin to the other struggling counties to help them catchup and this is worthy of discussion and appraisal. In truth this talk is likely to be extremely fanciful. Increased development grants will help weaker counties but it's definitely not a quick fix.
 
Firstly I think what it will in effect mean is that the paid GAA coaches and development officers that are based currently in Dublin will have to be laid off and replaced by new coaches if the ones based in Dublin aren't willing to relocate. Then coaching structures have to be put in place with a lot of inexperienced newbie coaches. Then you got to hope the players are out there that can match what's coming out of Dublin. This would need to be seriously organized by an extremely smart national co-ordinator. And if the plan is a success it will take at least 5 years after the decision is taken for the fruit to ripen at intercounty level.
But will the hunger be there to weaken the brilliant structures Dublin have built? I don't think so. It would be a decision that would hurt the GAA hard. To build those structures that they have seen to be a runaway success and then tear them down. I think that will hurt the GAA a little too much. There's no halfway house as I see it given the advantages Dublin have, they have to be weakened or they will never be caught up by the pack.
So then if strengthening counties incrementally while weakening Dublin incrementally is difficult to implement what about weakening Dublin dramatically but not weakening their coaching structures? What about splitting Dublin?
 
The evolution of the argument of splitting Dublin has been satisfying for me to watch. Since about 2013 I argued a split was inevitable and had to take the brickbats that such a non-traditional view attracted. Now the merits of a split is been argued on the Sunday Game, Off the ball and in the papers. The counter arguments of Kerry and Kilkenny's dominance not causing pressure for them to split still prevail but that argument is watery. Even if I was still in favour of a split (which I am not) then it would still be too early. We need to see a notable drop in attendances and continued Dublin domination before a split could be considered. The arguments for the split have come from Colm o'Rourke and Ewan McKenna. I think Ewan's arguments have more merit but i wouldn't say that either are taking a long term view. O'Rourke's view basically is Dublin should be split because not enough Dubliners get the chance to play county football. Whether that is the actual reason I would be cynical about. In any case I don't think the GAA should be weakening its most box office team just so more lads get the chance to pull on a Dublin jersey. Intercounty is the elite competition and the aim should be the highest competitive level of competition. If we cannot have teams matching Dublin then yes I would say they should be split. I think we can have teams matching Dublin but it will take radical but not impossible steps.
 
The only way I see teams been able to compete with Dublin was outlined in the previously mentioned blog where I put out a radical proposal of amalgamating counties and professionalism. You heard it hear first is all I can say but I actually do believe its the best and most sustainable model but unlikely to be popular but that may change. There are plenty of good arguments against my proposal I accept. I am not oblivious to my proposal going against the ethos of the GAA. I guess my counter argument is that this is just how elite sport works in every country on earth apart from Ireland.
 
Honestly I believe competition with Dublin within the existing intercounty system is a lost cause. Ciaran Murphy of SecondCaptains recently published an article (https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/gaelic-games/ciarán-murphy-you-do-not-level-the-playing-field-by-weakening-dublin-1.3228038) where he made the similar refrain of this system has been ok from the 1890's to the 1990's so why expect it to stop working now.
 
I think this argument really serves no purpose anymore and is a throwback to when GAA was truly amateur and could be considered largely a parochial sport. With the introduction of sports science in every intercounty squad, underage development squads, drug testing, warm weather training camps and massive backroom staffs one needs to consider GAA the way one would consider any professional sport. I will try to offer an example to illustrate this in a way I can be confident you haven't heard before.
 
Dublin is a city of about 1.4 million people and is competing with counties of around 100k - 200k people. Dublin as a city is on a very different level to the likes of Cork and Galway. Dublin has a population close to level with Milan and Munich and within sight of Barcelona. Milan, Munich and Barcelona have produced teams that have consistently dominated world soccer. I know of course those three cities can buy the best players from other teams so your first reaction would be; what is the point of a comparison with a team like Dublin that can't buy players? But my point is more about the market/fan base available to Barca, Milan, Munich and Dublin GAA within their own cities. This is the ultimate reason why those cities have the biggest football clubs in the world. The reason that great football clubs grew in those cities ultimately is because of the size of the city themselves. Dublin is in that same bracket and having a long term expectation of counties of 150k to 200k to compete with Dublin is not that different from expecting FC Brugge or FC Basle to compete with the biggest fish.
 
Another key event in the emergence of Dublin has been Croke Park. If you are expecting me to say that Dublin getting to play all their meaningful games at home is a key advantage; well yes it is but that is too obvious to discuss in an interesting way.
 
What I mean about Croke park is that it gave GAA and Dublin a theatre of dreams. A stage which offered a unique attraction like no other in Ireland. The redeveloped Croke Park ensured GAA was always going to be the biggest show in town as the appeal of playing out our tribal rivalries in such an amphitheater was such a draw. Of course Croke Park grew the sport in every county but Dublin were the most to benefit as they had the most untapped potential growth.
My own county, Kildare, has an apology of a stadium called St Conleth's Park in Newbridge. I wonder what would have been achieved since if during the boom years the Kildare county board would have had the foresight and financial resources to clinch a deal to sell their decrepit town centre stadium and move to a green field site outside the town with a modernly equipped 20k capacity. The Irish for a reason I can probably have a guess at have very little appreciation of the attractions of new modern Irish stadia until they are built. When Dublin were developing their plan for a new stadium at the Spawell with 25k capacity, the wise men of GAA Internet forums had their say. They wondered why Dublin would build a stadium that big since Parnell Park can’t attract 5,000 for a Dublin county final. The idea that the stadium itself was a big part of the attraction of attending never seems to occur to a lot of people in this country. Likewise many gaels were calling the new Pairc Ui Caoimh a “white elephant” during the redevelopment. It annoys me that so many in Ireland view GAA Stadia as there only to give you an acceptable view of the game and beyond that modern facilities are not important.
 
As you should now be able to appreciate I’m very non-traditional in my outlook on the future of GAA. I believe we are the slow road to a bigger elitism and inevitable professionalism. The GAA press corp led by Joe Brolly treat words like elitism like a dirty word. They are entitled to do that and readers are entitled to read and like it. I would just add the proviso that Joe Brolly has very rarely been correct about the predictions he makes in regards to the association. I have gone as far before in saying that Joe Brolly’s articles tell you nothing worthwhile knowing about the state of the elite intercounty game and I see nothing since to convince me otherwise.
 
I have very little respect for any of the GAA writers that have been in the firmament in the past 10 years. Only one (Ewan Mackenna) has consistently addressed the issue that pumping GAA resources/Government resources into one county that already was in the most advantageous position could only have one logical conclusion; Domination. If the press had made more noise about the imbalance in the funds going to Dublin in the late noughties; public pressure could have been applied to reverse decisions been taken that would completely alter the GAA landscape and force apathy on a large number of supporters in counties left to make up the numbers. It is not possible to know if the funding been cut to a normal level would have slowed down the runaway rate of Dublin progress. Perhaps Dublin would have been able to produce a level of success to dominate in any case with the existing advantages they had. But the GAA media largely acted like a spooked ostrich, put it’s collective head in the sand and made Dublin’s Domination a fait compli.
 

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