Finding the right person for the job is a big issue for the GAA

Michael Moynihan says this is the time of year when GAA clubs all over Ireland are looking around for chairmen and coaches, treasurers and selectors, secretaries and PROs.

It’s therefore the time of year when those GAA clubs encounter what I like to call the availability paradox.

In short, this means that the people you want for those jobs may not be available, while those available for the jobs may not be the people you want.

There’s a simple reason for this. Those with the qualifications and experience necessary to shoulder the responsibilities involved with such positions tend as a rule to have plenty of responsibilities already to contend with.

Flip that around, and those with enough time to devote to these positions may have all that time because . . . well, you can fill out the rest of that.

It’s a reality for all sports organisations that the people with the intelligence, vision and drive who are best suited to improve those organisations in their spare time tend to have full-time jobs which fully engage all of their positive qualities in the first place.

(There’s a handy master’s thesis for someone somewhere on whether the lack of educational opportunities for the vast majority of people until Donagh O’Malley took a hand in the matter in the 1960s meant voluntary organisations benefited disproportionately.

Finding the right person for the job is a big issue for the GAA

A pal of this column contends that for decades those people whose native intelligence wasn’t remotely challenged by their daytime jobs ended up pouring their drive into voluntary activities, resulting in ... Anyway.

The component unit of the GAA isn’t the only level at which this becomes an issue. The GAA itself is seeking another director-general, given Páraic Duffy, the incumbent, is to step down come March.

Something that seems to have exercised quite a few people is the inclusion of a business qualification in the job spec. for the new man.

Quite why this should be such a provocative point is surprising. Generally speaking the decisions and actions taken by the GAA which have driven people to react longest and loudest have had a basis in business, after all.

The broadcasting deal with Sky, the closeness to the GPA, the relegation of club activity in favour of intercounty games, the general increase in sponsorship and endorsement deals.

Given the multiplicity of business challenges involved why the opposition to having someone at the top of the GAA pyramid with a background in business?

Finding the right person for the job is a big issue for the GAA

A few weeks ago, when Duffy announced that he was going to step down, some names were immediately put into the mix. The likes of Liam Sheedy and Pat Gilroy were touted as possible replacements (until Gilroy took on the Dublin hurling job, at least).

Both men are capable and impressive, with garlanded intercounty management careers. Both are also successful in business.

Either their names were being cited because of their coaching experience at intercounty level alone, which seems thin evidence of their suitability, or their names were being cited because they’d demonstrated their prowess in another field, namely business.

Now, however, some people are uneasy with the notion of someone with an academic qualification in business, as though someone who had trained in a particular field couldn’t possibly have a natural sympathy for or expertise in another field.

Finding the right person for the job is a big issue for the GAA

This will surely come as a surprise to all those team coaches and managers who don’t have third level qualifications in sports science, a percentage I suspect is far higher than those who do.

In fact, the teachers, pilots, financial experts, bank officials, and such who steer intercounty teams would — according to this logic — be deeply suspect as managers.

Much as we would all like to revert to the nirvana which existed at some point in the past when commercial considerations weren’t something for the GAA to worry about, unfortunately we are confined to this particular universe, where such considerations are a reality.

To this observer, the GAA has recognised the reality and advertised accordingly. If it hadn’t done so then presumably it would have been criticised for advancing a commercial agenda by stealth, or treating commercial realities with ignorance.

What’s far more interesting is the likely challenge the GAA will face when the availability paradox comes into play, and whether two Venn diagrams will overlap — one with those who are suited to the job, and one with those who are available.

For my money there’ll be only a couple of individuals to consider.


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