Are the GAA finally beginning to see the light?

Having never been in a position to travel on a bus, only a guess can be taken at what it’s like to be waiting ages on one and then to see two of them come rapidly after one another. The old maxim relating to just that can be applied to many aspects of life all the same. Now including draws in All Ireland SHC Finals. Draws in football finals are even a rarity – only three have occurred in this lifetime – but to have seen one in the hurling last season was almost novel. Simply because, due to the pace games are usually played at, deadlock tends to be only brief. Though admittedly whom the pendulum favours can change in the blink of an eye.

Croke Park
It has to be said, mind, that parity in the initial airing of the last two showpieces shouldn’t actually have been a seismic shock. Galway were a team with massive momentum behind them last year and, while it was obvious Kilkenny’s powers were on the wane, something suggested there was one kick left in them. That’s precisely what transpired.
This season, that Clare and Cork were inseparable should’ve been no shock either. In that case, however, because in the lead up to the match both sides looked so evenly matched it looked very difficult to call. That may seem odd given Cork’s comfortable win when they met earlier in the summer. However, such a view wouldn’t acknowledge the progress made by Davy Fitzgerald’s side in the interim.
Naturally, when the need for a replay arises, the first thought that crops into most minds is of the financial windfall the GAA will gain from it. Yes, the coffers will indeed be bulging, but, on another level, it presents the association with an opportunity for a bit of experimentation. Which, somewhat surprisingly, they have – partially at least – taken.
You’d wonder are they finally beginning to see the light. Whoever came up with the idea of fixing the replay for 5pm is to be applauded. The only pity is that they didn’t go the whole hog and put it two hours later, and under lights. Knockers of such an idea will doubtless say that doing that would lead to astronomical costs for patrons. For me, that argument doesn’t stand up.
With the game being staged on a Saturday – and the distance both teams involved will have to travel – many spectators will end up staying in Dublin or surrounding areas overnight anyway. So there was a novel opportunity there to do something unique and play an All Ireland senior final under lights for the first time.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the GAA have passed up the opportunity. Floodlit games have a special attraction to them. Maybe mostly for players as it gives them Sundays to themselves. It also offers some sort of solution to the age old conundrum of club fixture backlogs that occur when counties are still going late in the championship season.
Games under lights have their own atmosphere as well. What makes it more disappointing that the GAA didn’t go for that option is that they are in fact to be commended for reducing ticket prices for the replay. Common sense and only right most will say, but, would such a move have happened in the past?
Past evidence has shown that – however long it takes – those that need to eventually do catch on. So there’s a chance major games under lights may not be that far away. What pointers there have been already have been positive. Now, hurling under lights was always going to take a bit longer to catch on.
Indeed, there were probably a few safety concerns about hurling at night – this corner would’ve shared them. But, from the few league games played under lights thus far and more significantly – the Munster final a few years back that ended up that way – it’s been clear there’s no problem with floodlit hurling.
While it may not have come to pass this time, there are signs that things are moving towards evening throw ins. And not just in terms of Dublin games in Croke Park either. It’s been great to see the latter stages of this year’s U-21 Championships being played off in late evening.
With economic circumstances the way they are, those that are in a position to work on Saturdays aren’t going to turn it down. Besides, Saturday evening and/or night starts have proven to be winners in things like Spanish football, Heineken Cup rugby and, lately, Premiership games in England.
In short, the GAA have profited handsomely from following the lead of other codes in the past and can prosper once more by copying them again.


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