Michael Moynihan looks back on the past month’s big GAA news...
Dublin are All-Ireland champions but they needed two own goals in the drawn game and a catastrophic error in the replay to make it over the line.
The narrowness of their All-Ireland wins undercuts the narrative of Dublin as all-powerful force of nature somewhat. Granted their resources and finances put them ahead of the pack, but for anyone who can remember the dominance of Mick O’Dwyer’s great team, this era of superiority is not quite in the same league of oppression.
The GPA’s top table seems to have vanished. Some weeks ago yours truly sat down with Sean Potts, the outgoing head of communications, for a chat. Only a few days ago Dessie Farrell, long-time chief executive of the GPA, indicated he would step down. Donal Óg Cusack left earlier this year.
This is a radical transformation of an organisation which has had a huge influence on the GAA in the last decade,
Davy Fitzgerald leaving Clare was one thing, but fetching up in Wexford? I doubt anyone could honestly say they saw that one coming. The consensus is that Wexford will get a bounce for a season or two, but is the same raw talent available there that was at Fitzgerald’s disposal in Clare?
Rob Hennelly’s statement on the All-Ireland final seems to have provoked applause and criticism in equal measure, and here’s one reader still torn between praise for the honesty and puzzlement at opening the discussion up all over again. On a related matter, for all the criticism of Stephen Rochford for picking Hennelly, and Hennelly for dropping that ball, what was the Mayo defender marking Paddy Andrews doing? A simple step across his man by the back would have snuffed out the danger at source.
The places you go, the talk that you have. Last Saturday morning as per usual yours truly was on the sidelines for a Cork GAA club’s U8 ladies football training session.
The main topic of discussion with the man along from me?
The Chicago Cubs’ valiant charge for the World Series. The Cubs have endured a lengthy famine ever since they were cursed by a man who wasn’t allowed to bring his goat into the stadium. Seriously.
And people in Mayo think they’re under the evil eye...
The Glen won the Cork county title last Sunday week. This gave everybody in Blackpool a reason to belt out one of the all-time great songs, ‘The Night The Goat Broke Loose’.
This is one of the immortal odes in On The Banks: Cork City in Poems and Songs, edited by Alannah Hopkin, along with great work by the likes of Theo Dorgan, Bernard O’Donoghue and Greg Delanty. The full text of ‘The Armoured Car’ is also present (“Facts to you I’ll disclose …”), but answer this: what was the Armoured Car’s real name?
What does the future hold for sports?
I’m enjoying a book at present by Chuck Klosterman, called But What If We’re Wrong, a really interesting book with an explanatory subtitle (Thinking About The Present As If It Were The Past).
Klosterman - a name you may recognise from Grantland - wonders whether future generations will look back on the early 21st century the way we now look back on the 17th, what current writers will be remembered in 100 years, given the obscurity of Melville in his own lifetime- and whether sport can survive.
In the latter context Klosterman goes far beyond the obvious comparisons like boxing, which has fallen off the cliff in terms of popularity, to wonder whether a sport like American football, so apparently popular now, can possibly survive in its current form. Or whether sports will transmogrify into a mixture of virtual reality gaming played by computerised avatars . ..
In any case I intend chatting to Chuck about this.
While the death of Anthony Foley overshadowed everything, there were some good results for the Irish provinces over the weekend, given Leinster’s smooth dismissal of Castres and Connacht’s exciting defeat of Toulouse.
Are those indicators of genuinely sustainable competitiveness, though? I ask because the two-speed system seems more marked than ever this autumn given the revamping of the European Cup.
By two-speed I refer to teams funded centrally by their national organising body, such as those in Ireland, and privately funded sides, such as those in France and England.
The difference between their competitiveness was neatly encapsulated by Schalk Burger, of all people, in an interview over the weekend, when he referred to the possibility of South African club sides availing of the common time zone to participate in European competitions.
“The only time we’re going to get into Europe,” Burger told the Guardian, “is when rugby as we know it in South Africa has a complete transformation, we get privately owned teams like the clubs over here (in Europe) and basically start a new competition.”
Don’t all shout at once about South African’s institutional challenges, which go far beyond competitiveness at club level, given the decades of apartheid. But what’s notable is Burger’s matter-of-fact appraisal of the difference between privately owned teams and teams which aren’t — and the implicit recognition that the former just can’t compete with the latter.
Is it that time already? By which I mean, time for the reflexive slash at Irish in the media?
This is as hardy an annual as, say, a sportswriter giving his or her thoughts on the team of the year, though in recent times it comes with an austerity-flavoured twist as someone criticises exchequer expenditure on the language. This is a slippery slope given what government spends money on — everything, lest you’ve forgotten.
Critics peddling this old rope tend to conflate the dependable inconsistency about teaching methods and how those don’t make the language attractive; unusually enough, none of them ever make that claim about quadratic equations or French irregular verbs.
This is one deserving of further exploration, but for now we need only register that neither consistency nor common sense need halt the columnist in his or her tracks. Who knows that better than myself?
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