THERE are few truer sayings in life than ‘every day is a school day.’ An old teacher of mine took it even further when he said that ‘the day you stop learning is the day you stop living’.
Now having said that, he was a chemistry teacher and I have gotten through life to this stage just fine without knowing the Periodic table off by heart. The mantra is, however, very apt in the times we find ourselves as the scientists learn more and more about the virus and the challenges we face as each day passes.
The GAA is also learning day-to-day as we tentatively return to action and in doing so, they will need to have the ability to think on their feet and react to new situations as they arise.
That is being evidenced by the need to introduce temporary lockdowns in clubs where the virus has become prevalent in communities. Credit is due to those clubs who to date have reacted very quickly to any hint of an issue without the need for the Association to step in.
I just hope a consistent approach is applied by clubs even in the height of the championship. I have every confidence that will be the case as the pandemic has made us all reflect a bit on our lives and question our priorities.
I think we have learned that our particular sport, hurling in my case, is not the most important thing in our lives. Health and family trumps all else. Some say wealth is another important factor but all the money in the world won’t save you from the threat of cancer or the coronavirus.
Having said that, whilst sport may not be the most important thing in life it is top of the less important list and contributes enormously to the overall health and well-being of our communities.
However, not everybody learns something every day. Indeed, some learn very little regardless of the facts they are presented with. Many feel they have nothing left to learn and that applies in sport as it does in life.
I am sure we can all think of an administrator, manager or coach who can’t be told. Hands up, on certain issues I have been guilty of it myself but ‘knowallism’ (I think that is a word) can be a terrible affliction and a serious obstacle to progress as the know-alls often refuse to embrace change and will stick rigidly to their point of view.
The fixtures conundrum is a case in point. I think the pandemic has given all concerned a real opportunity to adopt new thinking in finding a solution to the current system that will cater fairly for both the club and county game.
The GPA’s behaviour to date does not fill me with confidence that good sense will prevail in finding that agreed solution. I have repeatedly complimented the GAA on their leadership in the management of the virus but they very nearly dropped the ball by not standing firmer at an earlier stage with the GPA and the county managers regarding the insurance of players training with their counties prior to the official return in September.
It blows my mind that they felt in the times that we are in, that it was appropriate to be fighting for insurance cover for players to allow them to train for their counties during the protected time for clubs. That’s a real lack of respect for the clubs who don’t often get much access to their best players so to try and influence that was unnecessary.
Some county managers are also guilty of that approach and have little regard for the needs of clubs. Often their intentions are self-serving and not for the overall benefit of the player or indeed the county they are involved with.
That can often come from an arrogance that clubs don’t train as professionally as county teams and are therefore not best placed to make judgements around when players should train, play and rest. County set-ups often want total control over access to the player and can fail to recognise that most clubs teams are extremely professional and scientific in their approach.
I sincerely hope we don’t miss the opportunity now to change the club-county dynamic in a fair and balanced way. The current system is too heavily weighted in favour of county set-ups.
I feel there needs to be distinct and separate seasons to make that happen but what is very clear is that any solution will require some give and take on both sides as it will be impossible to fully satisfy the needs of all.
The danger is that the know-alls may hinder any progress and that is where the Association need to be strong and ensure that any proposal is not based on finances and the promotion of elitism.
The solution needs to be reflective of the needs of the majority. Anything less will mean we have failed to learn what is important about our Association during this time and if we think ‘every day is a school day’ it would be a crying shame to make such a schoolboy error.