Fundamental similarities being eroded

Adam Scott remains one of the top golfers in the world. Yet, the sense is, for all that he has achieved, the full depth of his abilities may lie unexplored as yet. Now, the same could hardly be said regarding Padraig Harrington taking cognisance of the Dubliner’s annexation of three of the prizes that matter most in the sport.

A sense that it could, perhaps should, have been so much better throughout his career prevails. Harrington and the Australian share at least one trait – a meddlesome mindset. Scott employs arguably the best caddie in the game in Steve Williams but still carries the gait of an unsettled soul. As evidenced by his brief flirtation with the broom handled putter, even though said implement is due to be black listed sooner rather than later.

It probably permeates all sports, continually trying whatever it takes to stay ahead of the pack. For, essentially, achieving success – in anything maybe – comes down to getting as many of the pertinent components going the right way at the right time. Everybody, be it someone out belting golf balls with mates for the sheer buzz of it Rory McIlroy trying to mop up another Major.

Similar sentiments surely apply to GAA. Difference being, as is becoming glaringly more obvious by the week, for many, being the best they can be still won’t leave them within an ass’s roar of the best. All the while, the fundamental similarities which lent themselves to selling the ‘one big family’ facade to the association are being eroded. On the field, at least.

How exactly can the ‘doing it for the love of it’ tagline be sold anymore? No player is going to like taking to the field and love the reality that a trouncing is an inevitability before the ball’s even thrown in. Even if Longford’s best players – and they have some fine ones in Mickey Quinn and Dermot Brady and Brian Kavanagh who, if, dare it be said, a transfer market existed within GAA rank highly in desirability, all performed to or beyond their optimum, would still not have been near the same level as Dublin.

Not their fault, and certainly not Dublin’s. But how many more kindred spirits out there do Longford have? Perhaps easier to venture that there are only a handful of counties, if that, of anything near similar ilk to Jim Gavin’s team. So how can the remainder – in this instance the majority – be expected to bridge the gulf?

Diagnosing the problem is relatively easy. Prescribing a remedy far less so. Dismembering the provincial structure seems to be the ‘in’ sticking plaster of choice. However, apart from the fact that such would be tantamount to redrawing the map of Ireland – in a sporting sense at least – it might be solely akin to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Progress relative to their previous standing in hurling by Galway and Dublin probably owes more to the soundness of structures in both counties than any momentous enriching of the status of the Leinster SHC. Certainly Antrim’s accession to the competition down south hasn’t had what was presumably the desired effect on their fortunes. In fact, to that end they have capitulated, the provincial hurling competition in Ulster has been reduced to an irrelevance which undoubtedly leaves promotion of the game up north an even more onerous task than it has always been.

With football, while a tiered system may appear an idealistic solution, arriving at an agreeable system by which to run such a structure could be a minefield. Who, or what criteria, decides what team goes into each division? The elite half dozen teams – if that – aside, there are a plethora of sides of similar ability.

Whereby on any given day results between them could go either way. Yet if they were to clash again days later the outcome could be different. Who or what decides which teams between them are better than which at any given time? Put them all in the one group and does that not leave a lopsided imbalance elsewhere?

The obvious solution, if titling it thus isn’t blasé, would be to grade teams according to their respective standings in the league. How the competition would be structured thereafter is another topic entirely. But grading counties via their league positioning – with their most recent being the obvious reference point – is surely the most trouble free route to change. And even those with the most entrenched viewpoints must surely now accept change is necessary.


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