WE’RE back baby. Lost footballs, driving rain, sprints – it’s all on the menu. I jest, of course, and the return of players to fields across the North is one of the best bits of news in 2021. GAA clubs showed last year that training could be an ultra-safe environment, even if some outbreaks due to inside partying etc did let the side down a bit. Time to pick up the baton again and players, coaches and officers must show their ability to lead again because we can’t go back to a ban on activities. Just look at the mood of players all week, it’s some difference from last week.
WHAT effect will the recent breaches of the Covid protocol have? GAA President Larry McCarthy says that the breaches have done reputational damage to the organisation. I wonder what that actually means. What are the knock -on effects of an Association that apparently doesn’t play by the rules? The concern perhaps should have been that Covid breaches could put players and the public at risk. On Sunday, 303 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Ireland which is the lowest daily number since December. These numbers are in the back of people’s minds when they see GAA breaches, and I can only presume that they won’t be as frustrated about a county team breaking the rules, as much as they might be about a team that broke a rule that said that they shouldn’t train during a club-only part of the season. If and when that should come into play.
I SPOKE to former Cavan star Jim Reilly earlier this week about a range of things, mostly pertaining to his player career. We also spoke a fair bit about the modern game, and he made the point that old-school midfielders are pretty much a thing of the past. He seemed almost shocked by the way in which James McCarthy left Aidan O’Shea trailing in the dust before one of Dublin’s goals in the All-Ireland final, and it was a perfect example of how the game has changed. Aidan O’Shea gave one of the best displays of fielding I’ve ever seen in Mayo’s destruction of Donegal in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final, but he possibly has underperformed during his career (that’s not to say he hasn’t been good – just not one of the greatest). There seems to be a template for success these days, and that’s fine, but one wonders whether youngsters who don’t fit the physical bill will ask themselves if it’s worth the effort.
FEARGILL McGill said last week that the GAA would have needed another three weeks to run off a Qualifier system. The GAA Director of Player, Club and Games Administration, whose job apparently is to explain how they are trying to keep everyone happy, said that something had to give, and the Qualifiers and the Tailteann games are the ones to lose out. They wouldn’t go past August because September onwards has to be allowed for the clubs, and they won’t get rid of the leagues because the leagues are what some counties put as their priority. He did say that we have to look at the players’ welfare, you can’t just whip them out for a period to have a nice long championship. A noble approach. Though a good lot of club and county athletes are desperate to train. It feels like we’ve been told for years that they train four months before a ball is kicked. So I say whip away, they love it.
THE other day, Joe Brolly uploaded a video of himself laying down the law to everyone’s favourite perma-smirker Gregory Campbell at some debate or another. Anyway, Joe, in his own inimitable fashion, said working class loyalist communities tended to be overly suspicious of the GAA, believing it to be the armed wing of the IRA and all that jazz. There probably is a degree of needless suspicion alright, but without meaning to be patronising, it made me feel a bit sorry for the fact that some communities don’t really have anything like the GAA. The video of the Ballycastle kids running out to training that was uploaded to Twitter on Monday was heart-warming, and I have a dream, a dream that one day you’ll see similar sights in every corner of Ulster.