GAA should think before biting the hand that feeds

YOU can tell a lot about a man from the films that he loves. I’m not sure what it says about me, but On the Waterfront is one of my absolute favourites.

So much so that on more occasions than I’d care to admit, I often visit the website, YouTube, and watch, and re-watch the famous scene in the back of the taxi.

Last Thursday was my day off. Housebound due to the rain, no car, and more chores than I’d care to admit, I once again found myself watching Charlie and Terry Malloy.

“When you weighed 168lbs, you were beautiful,” says Charlie to Terry before claiming his brother’s career never flourished because that “skunk we got you for a manager. He brought you on too fast”.

It’s the statement which sparks Marlon Brando’s great lament. His character Terry, immediately puts Charlie straight, telling him: “Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said: ‘Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson . You remember that. This ain’t your night. My night. I coulda taken Wilson apart. What happens? He gets the title shot outdoors in the ball park and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville.”

There is something almost unbearably sad about the boxer, often the supreme example of clean, pure, disciplined living, being forced to take a dive for dirty money.

Marlon Brando too, had his own issues about using his profile as a movie actor to make “short end money” by endorsing products.

In 1973, 19 years after ‘On the Waterfront,’ he appeared on Dick Cavett’s chat show. As a joke the host Cavett asked Brando to read the cue cards which contained the advertising copy for a make-up product. Brando, appearing on the programme to highlight the mistreatment of native Americans, looked disgusted. He point blank refused.

Consider the importance which Brando placed on his artistic integrity compared to today’s so-called stars.

But even the once virtuous Brando finally succumbed. Twenty one years after the Dave Cavett Show, and weighing closer to 300 than 168lbs, he was interviewed by Larry King in order to fulfil a contract with the publishers Random House. No longer speaking up for disadvantaged minorities, he was selling books.

Bloated and unrecognisable from the luminous figure that lit up cinema screens a generation beforehand, Brando provided a cautionary tale against the dangers of fame, fortune and excess.

I like to think of the GAA as early Brando. Brilliant but flawed, strong yet vulnerable, and most importantly of all: unsullied by “the horror, the horror” of rampant greed.

In the GAA, the golden ideal remains unchanged. We play to represent our place, whether that be club or county. When compared to the cheque-book loyalty of Premiership soccer, it is quite glorious. However, it would be wrong to portray the GAA as some type of utterly untarnished institution.

Strictly speaking, the GAA is no longer an amateur sporting body. Our county boards, provincial councils and Croke Park are staffed by full-time professionals. And when the money is right, the GAA will happily put pounds before the principles that are held by thousands of its members.

Unfortunately, like the conflicted Terry Malloy, the GAA has been forced to make some unpleasant compromises.

But, it seems that the GAA is going to try and reclaim some lost ground. At present, Croke Park is considering a new rule that will ban the movement of managers. Director-general Páraic Duffy has revealed that the new legislation would confine managers to working with their own clubs and staying in their native counties. It all sounds very fine and righteous. But the GAA should think carefully before trying to introduce this rule. For starters, it’s wrong to assume that all outside managers are getting paid. Secondly, the recruitment of outside managers isn’t a new phenomenon. A player/manager for his native Antrim, the late Paddy O’Hara was also in charge of Fermanagh, Down, Armagh, Derry and Donegal. But most crucially of all, the GAA needs to consider and poll the opinion of club players. Club players still get a very raw deal. Constantly frustrated by inconsistent fixtures, many are also forced to suffer the agony of being managed by a half-wit.

The prospect of hearing a new voice, and learning and developing from a quality outside manager, is one of the things which keeps club players returning for another season.

So what if he is getting a few quid. So is the physio, the outside man who runs up the biggest bill at most clubs.

Furthermore, if the illegal payment of managers was such a cancer, if it was such a corrosive influence, then what precise damage has been caused by nearly 30 years of unchecked payments? The introduction of a ban on movement will only lead to a more covert and devious black market economy.

After taking money from any company that would write a cheque, and after renting Croke Park to vendors who sell hamburgers at €7.50, it’s rich for the GAA to assert its amateur credentials by trying to stamp out the only payments in the GAA which it doesn’t receive. In this respect, the GAA has more in common with the mob hand, Charlie Malloy. Despite all the evidence to the contrary they are still pinning all the blame on the poor auld manager.


More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up