t’s déjà vu all over again, at the end of the day.
We are 12 months away from Gaelic football’s version of the Premier League. Or Premiership, as it will inevitably still be called.
The ‘Super 8’ restructure observes the time-honoured blueprint for ambitious sporting organisations in its construction of a ring fence around the game’s established powers. One that can be gradually heightened as the need arises, if natural market forces don’t take their course.
And happily for the GAA, there is already a generous supply of the key ingredient, the secret sauce that will be needed more than ever in this period of transition.
The unstoppable force that made the Premier League great. Our old friend, ‘controvassy’.
It cannot yet be pronounced controvassy, of course, in this jurisdiction. Though Second Captains’ Eoin McDevitt controversially went down that road lately, announcing another ‘Lee Keegan controvassy’. To guard against this, the GAA may even insist on ‘conspóid’, going forward.
A hint of conspóid, Ger.
But by any other name would it smell as sweet.
We have been hard on controvassy over the years. At times, it has been difficult to get to the bottom of its compulsive appeal, particularly during the Premier League’s handshake years, when many many weeks slipped by wondering who would shake hands at the weekend or lamenting who didn’t shake hands the weekend before.
Many days and nights have been knocked out of so-and-so ‘slamming’ such-and-such. And yer man ‘hitting back’. And many notorious offenders have been pursued to the ends of the earth, and presumably added to a register, notably those who swapped shirts at half-time.
We have had mind games and conspiracy theories and siege mentalities and media bans. And at times it felt as if this great addiction to controvassy, this compulsive need to upset ourselves, this fascination with the soap opera around football, rather overshadowed the football itself.
But a 2012 BBC documentary credited devotion to soap opera for defusing ethnic tension in Rwanda, reducing Brazilian fertility rates, and improving farming techniques in Britain (The Archers).
So it is not much of a leap to decide it was the power of its leading men and their toxic plotlines that made the Premier League great.
In any case, Gaelic football has always cried out for something to overshadow the football.
All its life, at least during those few waking moments when it is not furiously debating the urgent need to restructure all of its competitions, the GAA has fretted about the standard of football, the state of football and what can be done to fix football.
But now, this intoxicating summer of conspóid has delivered a glimpse of a bold future beyond caring about the quality of what we are looking at.
And much as Fair City tends to borrow a plotline or two from Eastenders and co, many of the classic Premier League narrative boxes are being swiftly ticked.
Touchline bans. Mind games. A drugs case involving forgetfulness and protracted recrimination. The wearing of socks in a provocative manner, first popularised by Thierry Henry.
And thanks to hurling, we now have recognition of the limitless possibilities of the rumour mill, with players asked to respond to any scurrilous nonsense found on the internet.
veryone has looked to control the narrative, with Éamonn Fitzmaurice assuming the Rafa mantle and producing a dossier of ‘facts’ about Dublin.
We are waiting for hell to cough up another Mourinho, though Cork have noted his methods, targeting a biased media for its siege mentality.
Aidan O’Shea was assigned the Arsenal role, of selfies and underachievement.
While Mickey Harte is an intriguing mix of Wenger and Ferguson, living on past glories, always teasing at more to come, and shunning media.
For a bit of colour, Liam Kearns is ‘Arry. Long before ‘Arry was associated only with rolling down the car window for transfer speculation, it was for bemoaning that his teams were “down to the bare bones”.
Diarmuid Connolly is approaching Cantona levels of recidivism. And now Jim Gavin has got in touch with his inner Fergie, with the latest media protest.
Though there were shades too of George Graham’s move to ban ITV news from Highbury after its cameras caused Glenn Cockerill’s jaw to break by showing Paul Davis elbowing it.
When you also consider the infinite conspóid opportunities afforded by the black card, the GAA may never again have to fret about the blanket defence or the handpass.
Even better for Gaelic football, the Premier League has passed peak controvassy ever since it began to recycle scripts like Home and Away in the last days of the Braxtons.
The result is a ratings drop such as Coronation Street experienced after it killed off Tina.
You no longer hear people complaining about other people watching West Brom v Stoke on ‘Super Sunday’, because nobody watches West Brom v Stoke any more.
Meanwhile, the loose hold rugby has on Rugby Country’s hearts and minds and outrage glands is evident in the lack of controvassy.
There seems to have only been two true rugby controvassies, both involving Drico, one seeing him dumped head over heels and the other leaving him kicking his heels on the bench.
So the way is clear for conspóid to work its magic for the Gah. At the current rate of progress, the unthinkable may even be achievable. And the Allianz League may be set for the ultimate rebrand.
From Only the League to The Greatest League in the World.
Problems in the palm of our hands
Paul Rouse worried, in yesterday’s paper, that the smartphone is set to take over our sporting lives, having already comprehensively conquered every other aspect of them.
“At its worst,” writes Rouse, “it colonises human interaction with a compulsion to immersion in online activity.”
I knocked that line out on Google Docs on the iPhone, flicking twice to Twitter mid-sentence, checking the Confed Cup final kick-off time on Livescore, and ignoring two Whatsapp messages.
I have waved the white flag to the smartphone. And judging by a chat with Paul Galvin lately, war has already been declared on the life of the GAA player.
Galvin described his smartphone routine in the latter days of his Kerry career: “We logged everything. Fatigue, hydration, diet, injury. Whatever. You rate it up. A daily thing.
“The data and tech stuff has made the game more professional but the guys are still the amateurs we’ve always been. When the time investment grows and the standards and the new developments in the game grow and grow, the ask becomes more and more and more. The time pressure is serious.
“These things eventually become a bit of a strain. You don’t resent them but you start going... ah, another thing to do.
“Every morning, first thing, you are tuned into football. It defines your day.”
Sounds like another colony claimed.
Heroes and villains
This week, the nightmare became a reality, when the five-year-old landed home from school and declared himself a Manchester United fan. We have a chief suspect, a despicably influential figure in junior infants. If emergency reprogramming efforts fail, the lad may have to be neutralised.
Finally, after 300-odd columns, a reader has stepped up, done the decent thing, and written that tagline at the top of the page for me. A practice worth encouraging.
The voice of reason, who laid it on the line to your man in the handcart in the only appropriate way: “When are you packing up your toys and finding someplace else to live?”