Professional approach must work both ways

I enjoyed my holidays, thanks very much. Catalonia is a nice place to be any time, but particularly in the week that Barcelona won the European Cup, with plenty of fireworks in our locality. 

Professional approach must work both ways

Though there wasn’t as much late night car horn beeping as I’d anticipated, thankfully.

(A propos of nothing at all, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every five yards you walked in that part of Spain, you practically tripped over someone wearing a Barcelona top, which was no surprise, but a rough estimate would suggest 97.8% of those tops had MESSI across the shoulders.

I thought I was aware of the little Argentinian’s profile, but when you see an entire [Irish] family in matching jerseys with the great one’s name across the back of each top, you realise the level of jealousy that must simmer in the Camp Nou dressing-room.)

Not such a great seven days for GAA players back home, though. Yours truly hadn’t been long home when it emerged Cork’s Jamie O’Sullivan was ineligible for selection for yesterday’s Munster SFC clash with Clare.

It transpired notice of his proposed suspension had been sent to an incorrect e-mail address, leaving Cork management unaware of the sanction until a few days before throw-in.

Clearly this is a snafu of sizable dimensions, but administrative missteps occur in all sports — in all legislative frameworks, come to that.

It was a considerable error and Croke Park officials were no doubt relieved that Cork chose not to push the appeals process to the limit, with all the challenges that might then have arisen in actually getting a championship game played.

As a headline incident it was hard to beat, but there were other odd developments last week to accompany it.

The Munster Council’s statement and subsequent explication of its position on live analysis, video feeds and press-box accommodation was partly a case of allowing itself to be depicted as less progressive than other provincial councils, though it was also partly true: that follow-up clarification included references to press boxes where people working (journalists) are sometimes cheek by jowl with people who aren’t working at all, let alone working with a team.

References to health and safety were also made, and while such commentary is usually dismissed airily by observers who have no responsibility in that area, it’s a feature of modern life which must be factored in. All fun and games until someone trips over a cable and cracks an ankle, etc.

However, it looks at this remove like the flip side of the soon-to-be-introduced blood testing of GAA players: on the one hand you have a development designed to hold GAA players to the highest professional standards of preparation in terms of testing for prohibited substances.

On the other, though, if live in-game analysis is being curtailed, it’s a development which appears to run contrary to the principles just mentioned, with those highest standards of preparation being stymied in the most competitive GAA province around.

Taken in conjunction with the O’Sullivan case, you can’t help thinking there have been better weeks for GAA players.

Never too old to learn

A pal forwarded a piece from the New York Times last week about Chris Heston of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, who threw a no-hitter a few days ago against the New York Mets, an achievement sufficiently rare to warrant the cap he wore for the game being sent to the Hall of Fame.

The point my correspondent made didn’t relate to Heston’s fastball, but to the development of the player’s skills over years as an adult professional.

This has been a long-standing feature of baseball, that players spend — or used to spend — years in the minor leagues honing their technique to a point where it would stand up under the pressures of confronting the creme de la creme in the major leagues.

But they’re already adults when they’re in the minors; passing their 20th birthday, or some other watershed, doesn’t stop them learning.

All too often — in all field sports — we tend to see the adult functioning at the top level as a finished article.

A pity more of those sports don’t share the baseball philosophy of improving players’ skills.

Or that those players don’t share the baseball stars’ attitude, maybe.

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Saturday, August 13, 2022

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