Over the weekend there were suggestions the GAA would release its inter-county schedule very soon indeed.
If so, forgive your columnist if events have overtaken him and he’ll repay that kindness by sparing you the hoary Harold MacMillan quote usually rolled out about events.
When and if that schedule is released, however, it’ll be a good day for everyone.
It might serve to move a few conversations on.
Take the news last week —revealed in these pages — that a representative group from the Cork senior hurling had met local officials with concerns about the structure of the local club championship.
This provoked an entirely predictable response about undue influence and the remoteness of the county player from ordinary considerations, their insistence on playing with solid gold sliotars and so forth.
Step back from the knee-jerk reactions, however, and the GAA’s issues are all there in microcosm.
First, Cork is different. Scheduling championships for over 200 clubs is a tall order, and managing the Venn diagrams of divisional sides, dual clubs and different grades makes it all the more difficult before the truncated time frame is taken into consideration.
(There’s a whole other discussion lurking hereabouts which could focus on how Cork is punished for committing to all codes in the GAA compared to the ‘great Gaels’ in other counties opting for a la carte membership, but that’s one for another day.)
Second, there’s another complication for Cork in that income from its club fixtures plummeted last year before any virus landed on our shores.
In 2018 the Cork County Board took in €1,030,365 from its club games but 2019 figures showed that amount was down to €825,664, which included €37,500 in media rights. Little wonder that when those figures were revealed CEO Kevin O’Donovan described the board’s losses as “unsustainable”.
The shortfall means there is even more pressure on the Cork County Board to run its games as efficiently as possible, with ‘profitably’ a fair euphemism for ‘efficiently’.
Third, the unhappiness with the county players interacting with the county board... is this a reflexive reaction based on the Great Unpleasantness we all went through a few years ago?
If so it’s unnecessary, surely. What’s so triggering for people about a reasonable approach from players trying to serve club and county? If those players stormed in and threatened to withdraw their services if their demands weren’t met, then that kind of reaction would be understandable.
If they put forward alternative proposals in a measured exchange of views, what would be wrong with that? In the bad old days those meetings tended to be fraught discussions about limited resources: At least that didn’t happen last week.
(There’s a whole other discussion lurking here about the extent to which clubs in Cork engage in seeking real change, if such is needed, in the county — and the extent to which ‘county players’ figure as an easy target instead. But that’s one for another day.)
As you can see, we haven’t even covered all the interlocking elements that need to be taken into consideration when evaluating this one.
The shadow of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the embarrassing fixture schedules of several counties, the fluctuations of the calendar imposed by the virus... so many challenges, so little time.
When F Scott Fitzgerald said of Hollywood, “It can be understood, too, but only dimly and in flashes. Not half a dozen men have ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads,” was he really thinking about the GAA? Maybe he was, particularly with a surname like that. But that’s one for another day.
Rashford deserves the plaudits
Your columnist is fairly immune to the charms of the beautiful game.
Raymond Williams’ dismissal of bourgeois culture is applicable to the universality of soccer’s appeal — you’re well-read, you know what I’m talking about — and the sheer foregroundedness of the hypocrisy is almost admirable. Almost.
However, I doff my cap to Marcus Rashford.
There are doubtless many commentators more familiar with the Man United player, all of them better qualified to evaluate his on-field contributions for club and country, but you don’t need an appreciation of the role played by a trequartista to acknowledge his contribution to British society in recent weeks.
You are no doubt aware that Rashford has forced the British government into a humiliating return — it had planned to discontinue a food voucher scheme for disadvantaged schoolchildren over the summer, but reversed direction after Rashford campaigned for its retention.
He has already raised millions of pounds for disadvantaged children in Britain.
Should we be paying more attention to Dr Fauci?
If you can work out how effective someone is by the reaction of the ineffective, then Dr Anthony Fauci is out on his own.
Fauci is the experienced medic who is director of the National Institute of the Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the States, but you may know him best as the smallish chap covering his face with his hand at a Donald Trump press conference, or the only person at those conferences speaking like a grown-up.
Fauci has been sidelined in the States - hence my reference to the effective and the ineffective - but he popped up on CNN last week with some interesting thoughts on American football.
The NFL is seen as having an advantage in the States because it’s not due to return to competitive action until autumn, giving officials time to plan and to learn from the experience of other sports.
However, Fauci was blunt in his evaluation of the chances of an NFL season: “Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall.”
I don’t wish to be a killjoy, given the simple entertainment sports fans are deriving from the return of various leagues and tournaments, but should we be paying more attention to Fauci’s opinion?
The variety of jurisdictions and approaches in America mean this isn’t a like-for-like comparison, but it’s a sobering appraisal of where a well-resourced and highly insulated sport stands.
And all the more striking for its lack of ambiguity.
David Berry serves up a fine read
Enjoyed a chat during the week with David Berry, author of a new book which caught my eye: A People’s History of Tennis.
The interview will pop up in these pages in the coming days, and Berry was good value for the chat, but I should probably own up to the fact that a subtitle like A People’s History is always going to be a fair inducement for me.
One of Berry’s theses, for instance, is that tennis provided women with a sporting outlet at a time - the late-ish nineteenth century - when team sports weren’t a viable option for them.
As a consequence, he says, it retained a radical character which seems to us now at odds with the strawberries-and-cream Wimbledon image we’re used to.
Admit it - that’s the kind of sports book you’d like to read whether you’re a tennis fan or not.