LARRY RYAN: GAA needs room for manoeuvre

Not all of the GAA’s proudest traditions have proved robust. 

The pull is following the overhead pull out of circulation. There was no drop kick in the last three football championships, according to Jarlath Burns. Even noughties-minted customs, such as writing motivational slogans — the likes of ‘110%’ or ‘score 2-5 from play’ — on your hand, are dying out already.

Yet, there is comfort in the enduring persistence of one old reliable: the construction of stands with insufficient leg-room for ‘patrons’.

That is the account anyway of Ennis patrons, who have been calling — in time-honoured fashion — the revamped Cusack Park stand “an absolute disgrace” for its forced intimacy with the occupants of the seats behind and in front, to complement the taken-for-granted intimacy with neighbours left and right.

It may well have been the chief oversight in RTÉ’s Centenary extravaganza — though others will point to some of the loose, one-handed hurling from Cú Chulainn — the lack of any kind of interpretive dance paying tribute to certain GAA grounds’ ability to condense patrons at close quarters.

There can have been no greater contributor to posture standards in 20th-century Irish life, when the price of a Gael’s slouching habit meant a certain barrage of knees to the kidneys on matchday.

More impressive even than the practice of constructing grounds that would challenge modern ergonomic thinking, has been the custom of reconstructing them with the exact same, or worse, restrictions. The last Páirc Uí Chaoimh refit remains the standard bearer in this area.

GAA needs room for manoeuvre

Ahead of tomorrow’s league quarter-final at the venue, Niall Fitzgerald, consulting engineer on the Cusack Park job, explained on Clare FM why Clare appear to have followed suit.

“We were working with the upgrade of an existing facility and governed by the existing profile of the stand.”

We must accept Fitzgerald’s bona fides when he says cost was the chief factor, though some credit must surely go to a central GAA philosophy, hinted at by Padraic Duffy in yesterday’s paper as he lamented the slow pace of change in the organisation: Sure isn’t it grand the way it always was.

Irish coach has his say in the gender war

With the battle of the sexes suddenly spilling over from sport to sport, it’s a brave man that offers any tuppence on gender differences.

But Derry man Christy Holly has chanced it. Sky Blue FC head coach Holly is the only Irishman managing in the NWSL, America’s professional women’s soccer league, which resumes this month.

Having previously worked in talent identification for Bayern Munich, Holly is well placed to explain how ability manifests itself differently in girls and boys.

He told the Irish Examiner: “The girls are definitely more technical. Maybe they don’t have the speed and size boys do at a young age, which often compensates for technical ability. When you see a female team put together 10 or 12 passes, there’s a lot more thought behind why they’ve done that. On the boys’ side, the decision-making is not so constructive at a young age.”

While America’s women are world champions, the men were a win over Guatemala away from disgrace this week. Holly feels the men’s set-up may not yet have set its talent filters correctly.

“Maybe the downfall with American men’s soccer is it still relies heavily on athleticism. That works, to an extent, but at the very highest level, they’ve a lot to do.

“You look at Robbie Keane now. He has the creativity and imagination a lot of players over here haven’t attempted to express on the field.”

He does concede men’s soccer often draws from the third tier of athletes, after football and basketball have taken their pick... “while on the women’s side, you do tend to end up with the best of the best.”

Holly was talking before five of the USA’s World Cup-winning women filed a pay discrimination federal complaint this week against US Soccer.

He may have earned himself a subpoena.

Young caught cold as ballers court controvassy

The Premier League has set high standards, over the years, in its specialist areas of controvassy and bantz. So much so an international week betting scandal or shisha pipe episode barely registers any more.

But just as the gap to the top European sides has widened on the pitch, so too have the market leaders in controvassy and bantz, the NFL and NBA, raised the bar ever higher.

The episode at the LA Lakers, this week, for instance, ticked all the boxes in the way a racist casino outburst or a tweeted Mercedes photo just can’t match. To recap, D’Angelo Russell filmed teammate Nick Young apparently admitting to cheating on his fiancée, a rapper, then Russell released the footage into the wild via the usual channels.

For the bantz.

You can almost hear legends of bantz like Malky Mackay saying ‘take a bow, son’.

The subsequent moral outcry, as you’d expect, hasn’t dwelt too heavily on the alleged infidelity or the privacy violations, but on ‘trust’ within the Lakers’ locker room. Naturally, teammates were of a ‘there but the grace of God…’ like mind and the boy Russell has since been ostracised, ‘according to sources’, and was togging out by himself until some apologies were exchanged.

Talk is someone may be going through the exit door. Though how things play out will be interesting, since Russell appears the more valuable prospect in the longer term.

We may yet hear the old saver: if you take that side out of him, he’d be half the player.


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