Extra Time

Opening Shot – Not all clubs can give

Some clubs aren't feeling the recession, if they are able to travel far and wide to sell lotto and draw tickets

Some clubs aren’t feeling the recession, if they are able to travel far and wide to sell lotto and draw tickets

By John Hughes
Back in 1991 the UK chancellor Norman Lamont coined a phrase about the green shoots of recovery whilst the bitter winds continued to sweep the nation. That proved to be a bit of a false dawn, and I think a latter day echo of those sentiments at my front door on Sunday evening.
I was doing the club notes when there came a knock at the door. I opened it and what should I behold before me, but a man in a club jacket
with a book of tickets in his paw looking for my hard earned euros (or sterling would do just as well, he wasn’t going to be rigid on the matter).
The club and county shall remain nameless, but suffice it to say this tireless volunteer had travelled over an hour from his homeplace on a Sunday evening to come to rural south Donegal to sell draw tickets.
I was a bit shocked I have to say. The hey day of the massive club draws was back at the height of the noughties boom. Seeing this fella on my doorstep was as jarring as it might be for you to see the garage deli counter thronged with builders at 8am in the morning, or a hoarding inviting buyers to preorder on an exclusive deluxe development of just 483 new homes up a mountain in the middle of nowhere.
But nevertheless, there he was at my front door, a beacon of the barely begun boom. The draw was very much in the classic mould. Big prizes on offer an big price for the ticket. Underlying it is the assumption that there’s a bit of money floating about and this club wanted to get out and chase down the easy early pickings.
I’ll confess to having parted with my cash partly out of pure shock, partly because I was immersed in the spirit of GAA volunteerism at that precise moment myself and partly because I had forgotten how one extricates oneself tactfully from such situations.
The one consolation I had was that, looking through the stubs at the previous buyers, I wasn’t the only rabbit in the headlight.
Thinking about it after I had oddly conflicted feelings. I admire any man who is prepared to expend the kind of effort that volunteer was prepared to put in for his club. That kind of commitment and passion is precisely what the GAA is all about.
On the other hand it all seemed a bit premature to me. South Donegal never saw much of the boom when it was about, and God knows we certainly saw more than our fair share of the recession. Indeed, as the recent decision of our senior ladies to amalgamate with Bundoran testifies, we continue to suffer it’s unforgiving grip.
Clubs thinking of hitting the highways and byways of Ulster might be best served to hold their fire for a while yet, I feel.
GAA people are great for helping each other out. But that’s only really fair if we’re in a position to help out. What is the point in taking from clubs that are struggling to keep the show on the road to finance clubs which have the resources to field teams to travel the country to sell tickets? Is that not taking from the have nots to give to the haves?
When the very question of whether we actually have a recovery or not is moot, when the vast majority of clubs are tottering from one season to the next in terms of their finances, when emigration continues to ruthlessly prune playing and voluntary resources, I feel it is a bit early in the day to be rolling out the monster draw and partying like is 2005.

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