Michael Moynihan: Lessons learned from the League frontline

Michael Moynihan: Lessons learned from the League frontline
Kerry’s David Clifford leaves the pitch following a tussle at the final whistle of the Allianz Football League Division 1 clash with Dublin at Croke Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy

Fifty* random observations about the Allianz Leagues.

(*may not be 50, per se).

  • Is there still a role for the national leagues in the first place if they came into being in the twenties, when there were far fewer competitive games all round?
  • Of course there is, I hear you say: they’re a considerable cash cow for county boards.
  • They also serve a convenient role in distracting attention from some county boards which are in a mess, quite frankly: “Look over here! A match!”
  • Despite what you might still believe, the league is not about discovering new players who may be added to the armoury for the summer.
  • The league is more about discovering new jerseys/fleeces/bobble-hats/training tops which the fans can see in action and thus be motivated to buy.
  • At least it gives GAA reporters a chance to visit Semple Stadium, the best stadium in Ireland to visit.
  • It also gives everyone a chance to see Brian Cody after a match, as they have done for the last two decades-plus. This has become as regular a sight as the first cuckoo and far more reassuring.
  • The league means an early chance to air out the new cliches: a couple of years ago ‘learnings’ was wrinkling foreheads everywhere, now it’s unavoidable if still unacceptable.
  • The league gives older hands a chance to reminisce about the old days ‘when you might get back from an away game on the Wednesday’. You would in your ear, do you take us all for fools, etc.
  • The modern league gives younger hands a chance to grapple with the new rules: in recent years this has been a given every January/February, and 2020 is no different.
  • Which reminds me, brace yourself for a lot of 2020-20/20 punning when it comes to results in this year’s league.
  • *Favourite league car park? The schoolyard down the hill from Pearse Stadium.

  • The league means rooting out the pair of old boots you keep stowed under the driver’s seat, because league surfaces are yielding surfaces.
  • The league also means a lot of bad coffee, by the way. In all the GAA stadia around the country a two-gallon drum of instant still rules the roost.
  • We’ll all be aware of the finals and the attendant crowds, but what will be the smallest crowd at this year’s league?
  • Confident prediction: none of the post-match encounters will match the time I got a manager’s quotes after the action as he answered the call of nature.
  • Equally confident prediction: more podcasts to be downloaded for the spins home than ever before (Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill isn’t bad provided no kids are in the car).
  • Not enough attention is paid to the fact that the league gives a diametrically-opposed GAA experience to the traditional one: the visible-breath, thermals-needed Saturday night floodlit game, with frost everywhere by the final whistle.
  • If you ask me, Allianz must be the unsung heroes of the GAA for their work over the last couple of decades.
  • What does a national league medal look like, anyway?
  • A few years ago we had a rash of postponements in a cold snap: climate change may mean a return to the great old days of pre-Christmas league games.
  • Maybe then we’ll have lads getting back from matches on Wednesday.
  • How soon after the final whistle in the league final will we hear the entire competition dismissed as having no bearing on the championship anyway?
  • Values any sport would be proud of

    Plenty of commentary available on the Saracens salary cap controversy across the water, I see.

    Billy and Lanlih Holland with their daughter, Emmeline.
    Billy and Lanlih Holland with their daughter, Emmeline.

    What’s noteworthy is a) the cohort of Saracens loyalists in the media persisting with a ‘nothing to see here’, and b) the cohort wailing about the implications of this controversy for ‘rugby values’.

    Some of the latter fire is being directed by people in glasshouses who should remember ... well, you know how that one ends.

    Better all round to consider the example of Billy and Lanlih Holland, who were on The Late Late Show last Friday night speaking about their daughter, Emmeline.

    A heart defect meant she passed away last May at just six months old and her parents are fundraising for Crumlin Children’s Hospital, Cork University Hospital, and Ronald McDonald House (details here).

    Advocating for those services while dealing with the grief of losing a child?

    Those are values any sport would be proud of.

    An American twist on skipper debate

    Elsewhere on this page I have mentioned the league, which is usually described as the GAA’s secondary competition. Often in the league’s presence.

    This strikes me as akin to naming your favourite child while your other children are in the room, and as a result I spend idle hours wondering how to make the league more attractive, though by hours I mean actual seconds.

    One innovation I might not be forwarding to Croke Park is a little development that caught my eye across the water.

    The Kansas City Chiefs have made the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years, and in the game they won to get there, actor Paul Rudd was one of their “spirit captains”.

    Yes, you are reading correctly.

    Before their last game, Rudd joined “team owner Clark Hunt as the two men on the Chiefs’ drum deck, banging on the ceremonial war drum to fire up fans before kick-off”, reported ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

    Now, you may be sniggering about a team which has a ‘spirit’ captain, but this is relevant to us. There are ‘ramifications.’

    Rudd has an Irish pub in his home and has often visited these shores; he is fond of Kerry and Sligo but his late father had planned to retire to ... Cork.

    As a consequence I expect to hear shortly that Ronan McCarthy and Kieran Kingston have been contacted by a disconcertingly youthful 50-year-old with Anchorman and Friends on his CV.

    The good news is that the Chiefs play in red, so at least he’s got the right colours before being formally announced as a spirit captain on this side of the Atlantic as well. Get your drums ready.

    Delving into Drury’s work

    Long-time readers will recall my suggestion some time ago that Briarpatch by Ross Thomas would be worth a read, and now a television incarnation is on the horizon.

    I leave it to the technologically adept to work out how to access it, legally or illegally. In a similar if somewhat more highbrow vein, a reader suggests Tom Drury as a broadly similar writer. I collected The Driftless Area and The End of Vandalism last week and will report back in due course. I did notice, mind, that The Driftless Area has already been made into a movie so if you see that do report back in due course yourself.

    michael.moynihan@examiner.ie

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