Best and worst of the GAA in one Donegal club

Dara Ó Cinnéide at Baile na nGall in Kerry. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tonight on RTÉ you can see the first episode of GAA Eile, a series on Gaelic games that your columnist — full disclosure — worked on.

It’s a follow-up, of sorts to GAA Nua, which was out last year, but we took a slightly different tack this time out. As Dara Ó Cinnéide — another man who’ll be very familiar to readers of this paper — says in the trailer, it’s about certain the costs of our games.

As Dara says:

“Who’s paying and what are they paying for? And if there’s a commercial value, how does it impact on the traditional values of our games?”

That’s a fair mission statement, and credit Dara and director Pat Comer for digging into that quandary in particular: the intersection of values, as we understand certain GAA verities, with the worth of association with those values, as represented by multinationals and banks which sponsor Gaelic games.

Early in our discussions we were wondering how timely this would be, a consideration that’s more pressing than you might realise.

Planning and preparations take place a good year before broadcast, so the hot topic du jour may be long forgotten by the time the finished product flashes up on your screen.

However, one thing I was pretty sure of was the timeliness of the GAA’s existential crisis. This is not to blow my own trumpet, because the GAA is always having an existential crisis of some kind or other.

This week is no exception. Exhibit A is the current mess in Donegal. Paul Dillon of the Naomh Colmcille GAA club in Newtowncunningham was diagnosed with motor neurone disease recently and his club rallied around, raising thousands of euro to help make his home wheelchair-accessible.

Part of the fundraising involved a charity soccer tournament on the club grounds, and when a complaint was made to the Donegal County Board the club was duly recommended for a suspension of eight weeks.

During the week Paul Dillon himself said he hoped common sense would apply regarding the ban. “I was taken aback by it when I heard it first,” he was reported as saying. “We feel guilty.”

Yes, you read that right. A man who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease feels guilty.

He feels bad because someone had nothing better to do than complain about his friends and relatives trying to help him at a desperately tough time, and because the officers of the Donegal County Board couldn’t find in themselves to tell that someone to stick their complaint where the sun doesn’t shine.

If you were to play some kind of drinking game as you listened to practically every GAA speech ever made, taking even a glass of watery beer on every mention of ‘community’, ‘volunteers’ and ‘heartbeat’ would put you in a fair pickle five minutes into the proceedings. It’s the GAA’s greatest boast that it’s an organisation like no other, with a reach like no other, leaving no-one behind.

The magnificent work being done on behalf of Aghada’s Kieran O’Connor in Cork and beyond is only one example. On that point, kudos to Cork City FC for rowing in behind the Friends Of Kieran campaign. I’m quite sure they didn’t feel the need to go to FAI headquarters for permission to do so, because they knew instinctively what the right thing to do was. The same for the people up in Newtowncunningham. I understand from some reports they applied to the Donegal County Board for advance permission to host the tournament but were turned down. Is it wrong of me to applaud them all the more because they went ahead and did so anyway? People know the right thing to do: The members of Naomh Colmcille did, certainly.

They know what values are.

Enjoy GAA Eile this evening on RTÉ One at 8.30pm and for the following three weeks.

Preparing for a summer of discontent

I caught up with TG4’s excellent GAA club coverage during the week, and the games in Cork in particular.

It was interesting to hear Patrick Horgan of Glen Rovers and Cork on the next round of the Cork senior hurling championship, due for decision in three months.

Horgan faces into the Munster championship with the county side, but as for the club fixtures — and the club players — he told Mícheál Ó Domhnaill of TG4: “It’s nearly an off-season for the next month now, no-one’s going to train, because if you do you’ll burn yourself out — no proper game for three months.

“ I don’t know what they’re going to do, but in this kind of weather, to have a club player at home looking out the window, teams playing in this heat and enjoying themselves — it’s hard to do.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do about it but they’ll come up with something, I suppose.” Something means three months without club action in this case. Is there a better way? Answers on a postcard.

‘If you were a fruit, what kind of fruit?’

I see the BBC’s website recently stumbled across a hardy annual of US sports coverage, namely the bizarre questions posed at the NFL Combine.

The Combine is something I’d like to see introduced in all Irish sports — it’d be a series of gruelling physical tests inflicted on athletes forced to compete with each other in sprints, jumps etc.

I don’t blame the BBC for latching onto it, though. Part of the Combine involves a job interview-type encounter between players and coaches, with the latter pitching some tricky questions.

Maybe Gaelic games, rugby and soccer would improve if new players got some of these questions, which were actually put to Combine participants. “If you were a fruit, what kind of fruit would you be?” “Are you afraid of clowns?” “How long can you stare without blinking?” (For the record: banana; yes; 34 seconds.)

Silvery treats by greats all way from New York

My unashamed thanks to the man who brought me back a book from New York a couple of weeks ago, so fresh I could smell the dust of The Strand off it.

Unfortunately for him, as I warned at the time, this is a dangerous precedent. On his next outing he is buying The Great American Sports Page, edited by John Schulian.

The subtitle? Glad you asked, mac: A Century of Classic Columns from Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins.

The reason? Where else are you going to read silvery treats like this from Sandy Grady, watching baseball fans file out after a defeat?

“They hit the sidewalk with tight mouths, like people who had seen a train hit a car.” Or Heywood Broun on a boxer’s style? (“Formless as the prose of Gertrude Stein.”) They’re all there. Damon Runyon, Grantland Rice, Jim Murray, Bill Nack, Rick Telander - and my favourite, WC Heinz.

I’ve bored you before about Heinz’s Death Of A Racehorse. It’s included and worth the price alone.

Value naming and strange Combine questions to michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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