Putting sexism within the GAA into the spotlight

The news that Roisin Jordan of Tyrone has become chair of Tyrone GAA was greeted warmly this week as a step forward for the Association, and that appointment wasn’t the only development of its kind in the last few days.

Putting sexism within the GAA into the spotlight

News broke on Saturday that Tracey Kennedy had been elected vice-chair of Cork County Board.

Hopefully these are indications of bright days ahead, and Liam O’Neill’s guess that some day a woman may become President of the GAA doesn’t go the way of Pele’s confident bluster about a team from Africa winning the World Cup.

I introduce the dreaded spectre of... sexism here, however, because these recent developments either herald the end of that attitude, or illustrate its strength and tenacity. (You think sexism belongs to the 70s? Consider coverage of the recent Victoria’s Secret “fashion show”, memorably skewered by journalist Hadley Freeman as having “the air of a Playboy mansion party minus the weird old man in a silk bathrobe”).

Consider the run-in to the election of Kennedy in Cork, a campaign described by one close observer as being of the “elbows-out” variety, a polite way of saying “extremely competitive”.

It’s in the nature of these campaigns to be ferocious. They always have been. The question is whether it was more ferocious because a woman was involved, or less.

Unfortunately, even in this age of metrics and analysis, that’s probably too subjective a matter to be measured. Certainly Kennedy’s work in improving the image of the Cork County Board across new media and old was an outstanding case study in professionalism and accomplishment, and one would have expected such work to be rewarded. It’s probably indicative of the decay of real dinosaur-calibre sexism that Kennedy was a county board PRO in the first place.

Before everyone in the GAA leaps to self-congratulation, though — and I’m not fully au fait with the mechanics of Jordan’s appointment — there were a couple of brow-furrowing details thrown into a lot of the reports of her appointment. For instance, is every male office-holder in GAA described as “married with four children”?

News from the east (of me)

I note that Waterford hurling has not taken a Christmas break, with a series of December challenge games against other counties breaking the monotony of training.

I also note from my frequent trips to the Gentle County a high level of negativity directed towards the team and management, often from people who should know a lot better. This negativity is curious because it often seems based on a longing for players recently departed to remain involved, which is known to one and all as the original sin of GAA team affairs.

Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction summarised the issue succinctly when saying his particular profession was full of people “who thought their ass would age like wine. If you mean it turns to vinegar, it does. If you mean it gets better with age, it don’t.”

And, as it is in organised crime, so it is in hurling.

Everyone wishes their playing days lasted forever, and every manager wishes their best players’ playing days lasted forever and a day.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Any manager will tell you that telling players they are no longer needed, even if they’ve given incredible service, is the hardest part of their jobs.

It’s also the most necessary part of the job, because the manager is remiss if he shirks it. The easy out is to allow players who are no longer at the required level to continue because their names are too big to be omitted from the match-day panel.

As a consequence, countless teams have been ruined by the players who hung around for a season too long, while the wishing-a-player-had-given-one-year-more phenomenon is a good deal rarer.

In Waterford the opposite challenge exists at present – a rich crop of youngsters, some of them bearing the first All-Ireland minor medals won in white and blue in 60 years, are on hand and will feed through to the senior side in the next year or two. Critics in the area might bear in mind that there are only 15 places available on each team, not 25.

Tough talking to strike rugby’s big deals

John Kelly was in these pages last Saturday talking about rugby player contracts and Munster, which I found very interesting.

As you might expect, Kelly wasn’t about to reveal too much about the ones that got away in terms of recruitment to the cause — certainly not in the week that a homegrown one, JJ Hanrahan, almost got away.

But it reminded me that in the (relatively recently created) world of pro rugby, there have been pretty spectacular pre-contract negotiations.

Take the southern hemisphere star who was shopped around to European clubs a few years ago. His wage demands were pretty steep, but within the spectrum of acceptability. More or less.

Legend has it discussions with one large club advanced to the stage where minor details were being hammered out, and the ceremonial pen was about to be taken out for the token photo-opportunity at the side of the field when one last T had to be crossed.

The player’s father had to be accommodated with a job of some sort. At this point the club, pretty understandably, lost patience and pulled the plug. Our hero turned up soon afterwards with a large European club, however.

And yes, Dad was attached to the club in a paid position. All’s well that ends well, eh?

Semi-naked Krim my Crimbo treat

During the week, I got in touch with Alex Belth, who runs the Bronx Banter website, to see what books he’d read lately. That way I’d know just how much money I’d be spending this Christmas.

For once, my wallet appeared to have escaped a scourging on account of his recommendation of a book I actually already own, Kenneth Tynan’s Profiles, but no sooner had I wiped my forehead in relief than he came back with another volume that made me reach for the credit card.

I can’t say I was too familiar with Seymour Krim before Belth name-checked him, but when a little research showed a) Saul Bellow rated him and b) he often worked “stripped to the waist” at The New Yorker, I realised that What’s This Cat’s Story: The Best of Seymour Krim would soon be winging its way to my house.

Of course, when I read this quote from Krim — “Thousands upon thousands of people, who I believe are like me, are those who have never found the professional skin to fit the riot in their souls,” — I realised it’d have to be express delivery.

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