Who needs Friends In Low Places?

A pair of sporting genii. Bastions of their time, or any time. Fierce rivals, yet imbued with a mutual respect often sadly lacking in many places. The photo of Mick Mackey encountering a stricken Christy Ring is one of the iconic sporting images of all time. To me, and many, most likely, it represents a definition of what the GAA is about.

The worth of the association to those of who’ve been enthralled by it throughout our lives and are likely always to be so is immeasurable. Even the linguistically lucid were challenged to produce new ways of describing the utter excellence – portrayed mostly by Dublin in football but across the hurling horizon – which has transfixed even more so in the last year and a half than is always the case.

Captivating elements extend beyond actual results of matches. While there might never be an equal of the snap capturing Ring and Mackey in that timeless pose, it’s often the moments of utmost angst which leave the most indelible epitaph to unforgettable occurrences. Perhaps as some endorsement of the theory that more is learnt in defeat than victory.

Now, Shane O’Donnell being hoisted skyward on the shoulders of kinfolk was probably the signature moment of the epic essay that was the 2013 hurling year. Fate has decreed that he has gone from chief gunslinger to the more peripheral role from which he was parachuted that dusky autumnal evening.

Garth Brooks

Yet, an opportunistic bit of photographic brilliance catching him comforting Podge Collins after the latter was very harshly dismissed against Wexford was equally as seminal in signifying the true nature of the influence the GAA and happenings therein have on the surrounding world.

All of which seems eons removed from the pointless and worthless furore surrounding the proposed Garth Brooks gigs in Croke Park. I happen to like the American crooner. And was more than a tad miffed at the realisation that there was more chance of completing the Dublin City Marathon than making it to the gigs.

Let it be said again, confrontation of any sort is abhorred in this corner. Feelings regarding the home of our national games have greatly soured for me in recent years. Somewhat ironically, logistical inhibitions surrounding events there have all but devalued the merit of attending gatherings thence.

At one level, there’s an innate frustration – possibly seeking a target – at the shortcomings in meaningful disabled facilities in the environs of the stadium. Naturally, given the ongoing impasse between those situated in the vicinity of the stadium and Croke Park itself, per se, temptation would be to side with the organisation which has and forever will be an intrinsic part of my life and those of so many more.

Then again, I don’t live in there. Reflection suggests, however, that the GAA have been slipshod in their dealings with these matters also. Aiken Promotions have also been found wanting in terms of the current pertinent issue but in the overall context of the differences between the GAA and those close to the stadium, the association hasn’t covered itself in glory for many a day.

As someone for whom access is a fundamental cornerstone to basic functionality, empathy for residents of the location – at one level at least – is easily found. So too, however, for those actively engaged in the local and wider economy. For them, the arrival of him in cowboy hat would’ve brought about a bountiful bonanza. And – mostly indeed – for the innocents caught in the crossfire who have speculated on tickets for shows which may never happen.

Has anyone pondered, even for a minute, how the GAA got itself into this mess? Why, for example, was some sort of lasting resolution not constructed prior to commencement of redevelopment work two decades ago with the reinvigoration of the Cusack Stand as far back as 1994?

Such mediatory measures were successfully implemented at the time other stadia not a million miles away were being upgraded. The latter can be personally vouched for as individuals very close to home were involved in the particular project. Did the GAA think the problems were just going to go away? Even though uses of its headquarters – and the range thereof – had multiplied significantly.

More basically mind you, one wonders has the question ever been asked: Who needs Friends In Low Places or any other places? In other words, why is there a need to have concerts in there at all? With other venues, necessities are easily explainable due to their financial circumstances and the staggered manner in which they are used.

No such impediments exist at the venue in this case. At their disposal, those domiciled in Croke Park have some of the greatest sports in the world. Games which, Sunday after Sunday, year after year, keep enormous audiences entranced. Thus guaranteeing the Association extraordinary revenue by doing so.

That’s without factoring in the income amassed from corporate facilities that are most likely in constant demand. Do they really need the concerts and all the attended controversy they attract? It pains me to have to be critical of the GAA, but they should stick to what they’re good at and give the gig circuit a miss.

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