MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Travel bug has sting in the tail for sports clubs

A few years ago a GAA club official was complaining to me about another sport, and its insidious hold on his players - its pernicious influence, its seductive siren song, tempting them away from righteousness.

That hold became all too obvious, he said, once they retired.

The subject of his ire was golf rather than any team sport. The official was unhappy that once players retired, they were more interested in working on their handicap at the weekend than in falling back in with the club to take a couple of teams or do some coaching.

In the interests of fairness it’s worth pointing out that he acknowledged their return to the one true faith once their own kids got to an age where they were interested in sport, though that opened up another line of thinking on participation.

Namely, if the player moved out of the club’s general catchment area, would they choose to fight the traffic and bring the kids back through the weekend shopping crowds to wear the same jersey - or opt for the convenience of the nearest club to the new home, despite betraying the heritage of decades, etc?

On such questions are Freakonomics-type books written, believe me.

Last week, though, I stumbled across another socio-economic factor having an impact on GAA club sides - to wit, the urge to travel the world among those in their late teens and early twenties.

A chat with a (different) club official spelled out the challenge: “The big thing you have to factor in now with young players is that they all have the eagerness to travel.

“They’re in college for three or four years, they might have a gap year, and as soon as they’re finished, before they go into the workforce full-time, they all seem eager to travel, and I don’t mean a couple of weeks in Spain. They want to see the world.

“You can’t blame them either. The way the championships are structured, it leads to that, but it means at the start of the year you mightn’t be sure who you’ll have later on in the season. You’ll hear rumours that this guy is going travelling, or that guy, and even if you keep the team together this year, you’ll find next year there are others who want to travel.

“Every club in the county - in the country - is having those issues. These places are affordable, and even if the young fella is a student he probably has a part-time job. At times because they’re working in supermarkets or fast food as students they can be hard to get out to matches, and they need those jobs, obviously.” What left an impression on me wasn’t that the official was raging about the kids’ selfishness; on the contrary, he acknowledged that if they’re going to college to open their minds, presumably, then the natural corollary was that they’d broaden their horizons (literally).

The generational difference was also significant; as he pointed out, in our own time travelling abroad for an extended period was a matter of emigration out of economic necessity, and was often a long-term commitment.

The modern kid has a different outlook, in particular the notion that ahead of a lifetime as a wage slave, they’re entitled to see the world.

“They have pals living all over the world,” said my man, “And they probably hear it in college all the time from other lads about travelling . . . all they need is the price of the flight, once they land there’s a buddy they can bunk in with.

Back in our day you’d have to save for a lifetime to go to Australia or somewhere but they can drop a text or two to see if they can sleep on someone’s floor for a while, and from there it’s pretty cheap to make the trip.

The age group involved is interesting, particularly given a chat I had with Jack Casey of UCC Rugby recently, where he pointed to an IRFU study which showed the majority of club players are in that 18 to 25 age group.

With so many players from that cohort likely to be in Vancouver or Sydney or Boston at any given time, spare a thought for the harassed club secretaries in all sports trying to plan their playing squads months in advance.

The White Darkness

There’s a movie out at the moment, The Old Man And The Gun, starring Robert Redford, which is based on a long magazine article by the great David Grann of theNew Yorker about a real-life bank-robber, Forrest Tucker.

Grann’s last book, Killers of the Flower Moon, was a mesmerising account of murders in twenties America; if you’re patient you can wait until Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio come up with their movie adaptation of it, which was announced recently.

Recommendations? (Try this from Scorsese: “When I read David Grann’s book, I immediately started seeing it,” said Scorsese last week.)

Grann’s written about sport — baseball player Rickey Henderson features in one of his pieces — but one of his best is almost, but not quite, sporty. It’s about a man trying to catch giant squid.

Anyway, now Grann has struck again. His new book is The White Darkness, which tells the story of Henry Worsley, who tried to walk across Antarctica alone at the age of 55. Everything Grann puts his hand to is worth reading. It’s out this week. You know what to do.

Aussies investing on a dung deal

I’m thinking of a new category here alongside my unofficial book, or read, of the week, but instead of something uplifting and enjoyable I’m strongly considering a parallel with the old Sports Illustrated This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse.

Maybe a Weekly Cause of Despair?

There never seems to be a shortage of contenders. Consider this from Juventus President Andrea Agnelli, when asked about the rape allegations surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I have this bad habit when problems occur where I tend to look people in the eye and ask them direct questions and then judge for myself...

“It happened with Cristiano. I am very calm having spoken to him directly as soon as the case emerged on what is the position of the boy. And his attitude and behaviour in the following days and weeks can only confirm this initial feeling.”

We’ll park Andrea’s channeling of Jessica Fletcher for a moment, though, because this week’s winner has to be the story coming out of Australia about Winx, the racehorse winning for fun Down Under.

Well, the story surrounds a bag of Winx’s dung, which was recently put up on eBay for sale. There was a bid of A$200 (€125).

I kid you not, and I promise that “kid” was the only word I ever thought of using in that sentence.

Causes worthy of support and success

The very best of luck to those involved in the Evening With Cork Sporting Stars for the Jack O’Driscoll Fund.

The event in the Clayton Silver Springs on November 5 features Roy Keane, Dónal Óg Cusack, Jamie Wall, Yvonne O’Byrne and Rob Heffernan.

See ie.gofundme.com/jackod-fund for details.

Also, good luck to all involved in The Legends Return game on November 3 in Borrisoleigh between Tipperary and Kilkenny, another worthy cause.

For more details log onto www.gofundme.com/Amandastapletonfund.


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